A study found that social dominance and the dynamic it creates, may be naturally ingrained in human beings.
The findings showed that toddlers also have the ability to anticipate that the dominant person will receive more rewards.
"This tells us that babies are sorting through things at a higher level than we thought. They're attending to and taking into consideration fairly sophisticated concepts," said Jessica Sommerville, Professor at the University of Washington.
"If, early on, you see that someone who is more dominant gets more stuff, and as adults, we see that and say that's how the world is, it might be because these links are present early in development," she added.
For the study, detailed in the journal Cognition, the team evaluated the reactions of 80 toddlers, each of whom watched three short videos of puppets in simple social situations.
In the video, the child can watch an actor doling out the same number of toys to two puppets. At the end of the clip, the actor's face is blacked out to allow the child to focus on the toys alone.
The results showed that toddlers looked an average of seven seconds longer at the videos in which the weaker puppet received more toys, or when the two puppets received the same number, versus when the dominant puppet received more toys.
This indicates that the toddlers did not expect those outcomes, Sommerville said, because their lingering gaze suggests their brains were continuing to process the information on the screen.
The study demonstrated toddlers' expectation that a dominant individual receives more resources and that toddlers are able to adjust their thinking about resource distribution based on their perceptions of social status of the recipients, the researchers said.