Babies like seeing bad guys being punished, shows new study

Babies can recognise baddies and like their bad behaviour punished, finds new research


Babies approve of punishment for bad behaviour from as young as 8 months, a new study has found. This comes just months after research found that babies could tell the difference between right and wrong from 18 months.


Kiley Hamlin, from the University of B.C. in the US, carried out the research on around 200 babies for over three years at Yale University, Connecticut and Temple University, Pennsylvania.

Using puppets her team determined that babies noticed bad behaviour and approved of punishment for those who behaved badly.

In one experiment, babies were shown a “good” grey elephant puppet in a yellow shirt helping a yellow duck puppet get a rattle out of a plastic case. The babies were also shown a “bad” grey elephant in a red shirt keeping the case closed.

After that, the babies were shown other puppets giving or taking away a ball from these “good” or “ bad” puppets.

Results of the experiments showed that babies chose the puppets that mistreated the “bad” puppets as their favourite characters. One experiment showed that 13 out of 16 babies preferred the “good” puppets.

When the researchers switched the puppets so that the good puppets now acted as the bad puppets, the results were the same when they performed in front of a different set of babies.

Both girls and boys preferred puppets that “punished” the “bad” puppets, the research showed.

Kiley said it’s not entirely clear what it going on in the babies’ minds but it could be that they like punishers of think the “bad” puppets because they think the punishment is deserved.

“These findings suggest that, from as early as 8 months, we are watching for people who might put us in danger and prefer to see anti-social behaviour regulated,” she explained.

Best be extra good around your little one then!

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