Alien saliva frightens us at first. Unless it comes from your children or loved ones. Then we overcome our shyness and kiss or lick ice cream together. This is a clear signal that even young children understand and interpret as a close relationship. At least that’s what a study by Ashley Thomas of Harvard University and her science team suggests. In short: anyone who is not shy about spitting should belong to the immediate environment.
To this end, the working group conducted various experiments with children aged five to seven years, for example with cartoons and people playing with dolls. Youngsters successfully predicted that sharing objects or licking food together only occurs in nuclear families. If it is ‘only’ about friendships, food or toys are shared, but only if ‘salivation’ is not done. But they’ve also been able to detect connections in younger children: Young children at least assume that people who share their saliva help each other out in emergencies.
This goes beyond individual cultures, so it’s not just about Europeans or Asians, for example, as a study with a larger and more economically, geographically and ethnically diverse sample of young children showed. Saliva exchange is prevalent in culturally intimate relationships, write Thomas and Company.
“We know that kids notice who’s kind to another,” Thomas says. “The most important finding from our study is that children are not only interested in the characteristics of people, but also who they relate to and how they relate to them.”