child psychology

Watch Scientists Confuse an Adorable Toddler

The below video is from a study recently published in Cognitive Development. The authors, from the University of Washington’s Institute of Learning & Brain Sciences, were looking into the question of how toddlers learn to regulate their behavior based on adults’ emotional cues — a question that is probably of interest to many parents.

First, the researcher in the video plays with a cool (to a toddler) toy and then gives it to the kid to check it out, which he does enthusiastically. Then, as she demonstrates a new toy — a necklace of beads that she places into a cup (awesome) — another researcher arrives and sits down. “That’s aggravating — that’s so annoying!” the second researcher complains. The toddler is clearly a bit startled by this sudden outburst.

He’s then given a chance to play with the “aggravating” toy while both researchers look on, and his reaction, which starts at 1:35 or so, is priceless. I am far from fluent in reading toddlers’ facial expressions, but I’m pretty sure what’s running through the kid’s head is something like: “I WANT TO PLAY WITH THE THING BUT THAT LADY IS MAD BUT I WANT TO PLAY WITH THE THING BUT THAT LADY IS MAD OH MY GOSH WHAT SHOULD I DO???” He sits there, petrified, until the friendly researcher mercifully takes the toy away.

Get used to it, kid — life is a series of awesome toys that other people will get inexplicably mad at you for playing with.