Scientists at Yale University have found that babies have the ability to make moral and social judgements by working out whether someone has a helpful or unhelpful character. The results suggest that this ability is instinctive and not learned from parents.
A series of experiments revealed that babies aged between six and ten months old preferred ‘helping’ characters to anti-social ones.
The research involved testing the reaction of babies to “good”, “neutral” and “bad” wooden toys.
In almost all cases the infants preferred toys that were helpful to others over those which either hindered their progress or “stood back” and did nothing.
Kiley Hamlin, lead author of the study, commented: “Our results suggest that infants have a pretty advanced evaluating system that doesn’t need much outside input to develop. It develops at a very early age, by 6 months.”
Prior studies showed that young infants prefer more attractive people, however this is the first report to suggest that babies as young as six-months-old already have developed mechanisms to judge social intentions.
The authors said: “This supports the view that our ability to evaluate people is a biological adaptation – universal and unlearned.”