Do babies know difference between good and evil?

Studies of babies suggest the answer is yes, and that our moral code could be with us from birth


Babies as young as 5 months have a sense of what is good and bad, say psychologists.


New experiments suggest babies have a moral code, and that they’re hardwired with it from birth, reports the Daily Mail. Previously, many experts thought our sense of what’s right or wrong was shaped by our parents and experiences.

In experiments, babies were seen to preferred characters who were helpful to those who were unhelpful or naughty.

One experiment involved babies aged 6 months to 1 year and simple puppets. The babies watched a puppet shows several times, where a toy was trying to get up a hill. Sometimes the toy was helped by another toy, other times a third toy pushed it down the hill. When shown the puppets, the babies had a clear preference for the ‘helpful’ puppet.

Other tests also hinted at babies’ moral sense. These tests sound even cuter than the puppet show – in one, a toy dog tries to open a box, and is either helped by a teddy bear or hindered by a teddy sitting on the box. In another test, a puppet cat rolls a ball to toy rabbits – one rabbit rolls it back to the cat, the other rabbit runs off with the ball. “In both studies, 5-month-olds preferred the good guy – the one who helped to open the box; the one who rolled the ball back – to the bad guy,” said psychologist Professor Paul Bloom, from Yale University, Connecticut, USA.

However, some experts urge caution at the idea of our morality being hardwired.

Babies begin to learn the difference between good and bad from birth, said Durham University’s Dr Nadja Reissland. She said, “Everything hinges on who decides what is normal.

“By saying pushing the ball up the hill is helpful, the researchers are making a moral judgment. The babies might just prefer to see things go up rather than down.”


What to you think? Is your baby hardwired to know what’s right and wrong, or is it up to you to teach her what’s right?

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