Babies Might Know More About Good and Bad Than You’d Think

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When Yale professors put on the puppet show, three puppets sat on a stage around a little clear plastic case, closed on stage.

One puppet helped another open the case. The other jumped on the case, preventing a puppet from opening it.

When researchers allowed babies to choose one of the puppets, most picked the helpful puppet.

It shows, Yale professor Paul Bloom writes in the New York Times, evidence that babies know early on the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.

“With the help of well-designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life. Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone,” Bloom writes in his piece for the Times. “Socialization is critically important. But this is not because babies and young children lack a sense of right and wrong; it’s because the sense of right and wrong that they naturally possess diverges in important ways from what we adults would want it to be.”

You can watch the video here.

The findings are based on reactions babies had when they went through experiments like the case puppet show at the Infant Cognition Center at Yale.

“One question that arose with these experiments was how to understand the babies’ preference: did they act as they did because they were attracted to the helpful individual or because they were repelled by the hinderer or was it both?,” Bloom wrote. “We found that, given a choice, infants prefer a helpful character to a neutral one; and prefer a neutral character to one who hinders.”

The study also looked into niceness and naughtiness and ensured that the colors were altered on nice and naughty characters to rule out color preference.

“All of this research, taken together, supports a general picture of baby morality. It’s even possible, as a thought experiment, to ask what it would be like to see the world in the moral terms that a baby does,” he wrote. “Babies probably have no conscious access to moral notions, no idea why certain acts are good or bad. They respond on a gut level.”

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