Last night we were dining and my wife accidentally knocked over a bottle of wine. In trying to keep the bottle, the wine finished over her skin. Teresa (our 21 month old daughter) started suddenly to cry pointing at the wine on the arms of her mother.

It is really strange because apparently she wasn't scared from the tumble and she clearly confused the wine with blood. Moreover her experience with blood is really low: she has only bled a few times and we don't watch TV, only cartoons.

Is the fear of blood an innate knowledge?

  • 1
    She was probably just responding to the fall in general. Dec 6, 2013 at 13:54
  • @balanced mama: I'm pretty sure no, she clearly pointed the blood on the arms of my wife. Moreover the bottle not really fall down. Dec 6, 2013 at 13:56
  • 2
    I have edited to try and make it a bit more readable.
    – Rory Alsop
    Dec 6, 2013 at 13:57
  • 9
    Maybe she was just distraught to see good wine go to waste Dec 6, 2013 at 14:11
  • I'm confused why the conclusion is that she's clearly afraid of blood because it was a red liquid. Is she familiar with blood in the first place? And why fear it? Dec 11, 2013 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


What you describe is not a fear of blood - in fact studies show any fear of blood is learned, not innate - but instead your baby will have picked up on a couple of things:

  • Wine on the skin will look like a mess, and babies understand when something is different or messy or spilt
  • You and your wife will have reacted to the fall. Whatever the response, your baby will have picked up on this. Pointing at the wine as one sign of the fall is quite reasonable.

Of the two, I think the 2nd is most likely. As @Beofett comments:

...kids that age are incredibly keen observers of their parents. They get most of their behavioral cues from watching how we react

  • Two things let me surprised: first of all the reaction; she was really scared, not like usually when objects fall down or something different happen. Second she clearly pointed the wine on the arms of her mother, disinteresting of the bottle in front of her. She was really worried about her mother. Dec 6, 2013 at 14:39
  • Could you show me where I can find this studies. they seem interesting. I known some people that have problem in seeing blood. Does this problem came from some not innate experiences? Dec 6, 2013 at 14:56
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    Keep in mind that kids that age are incredibly keen observers of their parents. They get most of their behavioral cues from watching how we react. Generally, when adults spill something, our responses range from frustration to "oh, no! My clothes/computer/phone is ruined!". In other words, we indirectly teach our children that spilling something can be Very Bad.
    – user420
    Dec 6, 2013 at 15:02
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    I think Beofett is on to something there. Spilling water certainly gets a much softer reaction from adults than red wine, because we understand that stains from red wine are much harder to remove than stains from plain water. Dec 6, 2013 at 18:10
  • I will grab links for a couple of those studies. There are actually very few responses that are actually considered innate in babies. And some of them vanish after a few weeks.
    – Rory Alsop
    Dec 6, 2013 at 19:35

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