Ever wondered why babies love and adore superheroes? It may be because they are born with a sense of justice -- a concept portrayed through the heroic acts of the characters, researchers say.
The findings showed that infants, as young as six months old, who can barely talk, are capable of recognising the heroic acts of justice and thus find themselves drawn to figures who protect the weak.
This also explains why kids and adults alike have a never-ending love affair with superhero stories in popular culture, the researchers said.
"Six-month-old infants are still in an early developmental stage and most will not yet be able to talk. Nevertheless they can already understand the power dynamics between different characters, suggesting that recognising heroism is perhaps an innate ability," said David Butler from Kyoto University in Japan.
For the study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, the team conducted a series of experiments where infants were shown animations of one geometric character chasing and bumping into another, as a third character watches from a distance.
In one version, this third party character intervenes, and in another, it escapes in another direction.
When the infants were then shown real life replicas of these intervening and non-intervening characters, they were more likely to choose the intervener, the researchers said.
"In human society, selflessly protecting the powerless is considered an act of heroic justice," added Yasuhiro Kanakogi from the Kyoto University.
However, understanding these may be complex as one has to first grasp the power relationship between the actors, then understand that the hero's actions are favourable for the victim but not for the villain, and finally, that the hero acted deliberately, Kanakogi said.