Are We Social Even in the Womb?

Humans are social creatures, or so the psychologists tell us. But when does that social behavior start? Is it biological or cultural? A new study from a team of psychologists examines the behavior of twins in utero, and finds that “by the 14th week of gestation, unborn twins are already directing arm movements at each other, and by the 18th week these ‘social’ gestures have increased to 29 percent of all observed movements. In contrast, the proportion of self-directed actions reduced over the same period.” The “kinetics” of the fetuses’ gestures towards each other was also “longer-lasting and slower to decelerate” than other fetal movements, which indicates that “the fetuses recognise on some level that there is something special about their twin.” Note, however, the tiny sample size (only five sets of twins). [%comments]


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  1. JohnJ says:

    Oh, yeah. These comments oughtta be good.

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  2. Ian Kemmish says:

    Some species of vivparous shark cannibalise each other in the womb. But I doubt even these researchers would call that “social behaviour”. Social behaviour consists of a lot more than merely recognising the existence of another entity.

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  3. Diego.CMS says:

    In the case of twins, their only way “socialising” is with their twin brother. But why? They don’t lose much about their opportunity cost. Their opportunity cost of not “socialising” is higher. According to the post, throughout the year the “socialising” (that in fact they call it interactions of the babies) have been increasing, meaning that the twin’s socialising increases. Our world in turning into a social world. This kind of studies are probably done with a small marginal cost and is very interesting to know that each generation is turning into a more socialised world and people.

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  4. kevin says:

    nonsense. life begins at birth. those things in the womb are just globs of protoplasm. there’s no ethical reason not to eliminate them, if the woman chooses to do so..

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  5. jp says:

    “Longer lasting and slower to decelerate”?! That sounds like they’re hitting each other even that young!

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  6. Travis L says:

    @Ian but isn’t the recognition that other entities have agency the first step (and a prerequisite) to social interaction? I don’t think anybody was suggesting that the twins are having high tea, just that they seem to recognize that their twin is a being, and something special compared to the umbilical cord.

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  7. Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team says:

    Early on in gestation there is room for privacy and space to to swing a cat. Late in gestation, as the real estate is limited, the twins have to make accomodations. Embracing in more space efficient than hyperextension and spreadeagle positions.

    Also there is a natural grasp reflex in infants that grabs on to anything placed in the palm. Perhaps it was useful as infants clung to the hairy back of their parents as they scurried about the savannah. It is not necessarily a hearty handshake.

    Most twins have separate gestational sacs and are diamniotic twin. They are walled off from each other by membranes and cannot firmly embrace or hug. Yes, they have their own rooms.

    I think the socialbility is no more or no less in the womb than as witnessed in a newborn. They are grouchy, tired, cold and somewhat angry. And they punch and kick.

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  8. Eric M. Jones says:

    Psychologists, Huh…? “Now let’s talk about your relationship with your Mother…”

    It would be unkind of me to mention that they were also 100% Catholic. And to be a Catholic really means you have to accept that the wine and crackers REALLY (transubstantiation) change into the blood and body of Christ.(who came from Nazareth…which didn’t then exist).

    Back to reality. Feynman said psychologists (and macroeconomists) were quacks. I’ll buy that.

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