Zoe Liberman
Doctoral Student

How do infants begin to think about social relationships?

Similarity begets liking. Birds of a feather flock together. These idioms display a fundamental part of the human social world: people who are similar to each other tend to affiliate. We are exploring whether infants use specific types of similarity to reason about social relationships: similarities that mark social group. For instance, the foods people eat, and the languages people speak may serve as robust markers social category. Thus, we are interested in whether infants think two people who like the same foods, or speak the same language might be members of the same social group. However, other types of similarity (like wearing the same color shirt) may be less likely to mark social group, so we are asking whether infants view these trivial similarities differently.

Past research has found that infants look longer at events they find unexpected than at events they expect to happen. So, in some studies we introduce infants to people who are similar to each other, or different from each other and then use each infants’ looking time to ask whether they expect those people to affiliate with each other or not. In other studies we ask whether infants expect that people who affiliate with each other to be similar to one another, and whether infants think that people who are similar to each other on dimension will be similar to each other on another dimension.zoe project page





  • Liberman, Z., Kinzler, K. D., & Woodward, A. L. (2014). Friends or foes: Infants use shared evaluations to infer others’ social relationships. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(3), 966-971.
  • Hamlin, J. K., Mahajan, N., Liberman, Z., & Wynn, K. (2013). Not like me = bad: Infants prefer those who harm dissimilar others. Psychological Science, 24(4), 589-594.