Babies can tell good from evil at six months

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Babies can tell good from evil at six months

Postby Ben » Mon May 10, 2010 5:11 am

Interesting research...

Babies may be smarter than Freud thought

LONDON: Babies are able to tell good from evil from the age of six months, a study has suggested.

Researchers from the Infant Cognition Centre at Yale University in the US asked infants of various ages to choose between characters that they had seen behaving well or badly, and found they overwhelmingly favoured the ''good'' characters.

The research contradicts the belief promoted by psychologists such as Sigmund Freud that babies are born ''amoral animals'' and acquire a sense of right and wrong through conditioning.

In one experiment, babies aged between six months and a year watched an animated film in which a ball with eyes tries to climb a hill while a square tries to help push it up and a triangle tries to force it back down.

At the end of the film, scientists tested which shape the babies favoured by measuring how long they spent looking at a picture of each one. In 80 per cent of cases, the babies chose the helpful character over the unhelpful one.

Paul Bloom, the psychologist who heads the study team, said: ''Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone.''

Telegraph, London
(syndicated here: http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/life ... -ulwq.html
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Re: Babies can tell good from evil at six months

Postby Pannapetar » Mon May 10, 2010 7:33 am

Ben wrote:Paul Bloom, the psychologist who heads the study team, said: ''Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone.''


That's a quaint way of putting it, but the conclusion in itself is nothing new. Altruism is well understood in evolutionary biology and it is also well understood why humans prefer and reward altruistic behaviour. Surely, Freud has been wrong about quite a few things.

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Re: Babies can tell good from evil at six months

Postby Guy » Mon May 10, 2010 9:31 am

This baby seems to delight in evil:

Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Babies can tell good from evil at six months

Postby Agent » Tue May 11, 2010 11:29 pm

In one experiment, babies aged between six months and a year watched an animated film in which a ball with eyes tries to climb a hill while a square tries to help push it up and a triangle tries to force it back down.

At the end of the film, scientists tested which shape the babies favoured by measuring how long they spent looking at a picture of each one. In 80 per cent of cases, the babies chose the helpful character over the unhelpful one.

Paul Bloom, the psychologist who heads the study team, said: ''Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone.''


I think it's quite a stretch to say that this experiment in any way showed that babies have a sense of good and evil. At best it showed that babies are attracted to things that help and adverse to things that hinder. I would think that would be a basic instinct shared with any social animal that hopes to survive. To extrapolate morality out of that is going a bit far.
Also, what would lead one to the conclusion that the baby approved of the action because more time was spent watching it? That means nothing unless you can prove that babies approve of actions based on the duration of time they remain fixated on them.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā.
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Re: Babies can tell good from evil at six months

Postby Dan74 » Wed May 12, 2010 12:07 am

Good questions. Similar ones occurred to me when I read about this study.

One thing I've certainly observed with my kids is that they show concern for others and empathy from very early on. In fact it sort of wanes later when they become preoccupied with "their own" concerns.

One striking case was when our middle one was about one and a half. I was holding him in my arms when we were in a flower shop and I put my hand in the fountain with a fake smoke feature. "No Papa, hot!" he cried. And the youngest (who is 22 months now) has shown this kind of behaviour many many times when her brothers were not crying etc.

Sorry this is somewhat off topic...
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