Drop a couple of pens in front of an eighteen-month-old toddler, and there is a decent chance your toddler will display a spontaneous act of altruism by picking them up for you. A recent experiment at the Max Planck Institute now shows that this kind of cooperative, altruistic behavior in toddlers can be increased by affiliative priming. Priming is a powerful tool in psychological research, and successful priming experiments usually hint that deep routed automatic mechanisms are influencing a particular behavior. For example, in 2003 a priming study related to adult affiliative priming showed that people who were primed with words such as "friend" or "together" will mimic mannerisms of a model more readily than unprimed adults.
In this very recent study, the primed subjects were eighteen-month-old toddlers, and priming was not induced by words, but by the pictures shown below.
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