I was recently watching an interesting 5-part interview between YouTuber dprjones and J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., MD titled "Man Made God". Dr. Thomson referred to a study performed on babies pertaining moral understanding. I found the article and would like to share it with you guys.
Here it is, The Moral Life of Babies by Paul Bloom, The New York Times, May 5,2010. Enjoy!
Bloom's article is very good. I remember it from when it came out.
There is also this great blog by Ed Yong, on a more recent study, once again confrming that infats have the buddings of a moral understanding.
And if you like this subject, Kim, you should join the Atheist Morality group (under Groups/Philosophy).
If you saw someone punching a stranger in the street, you might think poorly of them. But if you found out that the stranger had slept with the assailant’s partner, had kicked a kitten, or was Justin Bieber, you might think differently about the situation. You might even applaud the punch-thrower.
When we make moral judgments, we do so subtly and selectively. We recognise that explicitly antisocial acts can seem appropriate in the right circumstances. We know that the enemy of our enemy can be our friend. Now, Kiley Hamlin from the University of British Columbia has shown that this capacity for finer social appraisals dates back to infancy – we develop it somewhere between our fifth and eighth months of life.
Hamlin, formerly at Yale University, has a long pedigree in this line of research. Together with Karen Wynn and Paul Bloom, she showed that infants prefer a person who helps others over someone who hinders, even from the tender age of three months. These experiments also showed that infants expect others to behave in the same way – approaching those who help them and avoiding those who harm them. Now, Hamlin has shown that our infant brains can cope with much more nuance than that.
She worked with 64 babies, and showed them a video of a duck hand puppet as it tried to get at a rattle inside a box. This protagonist was aided by a helpful elephant puppet that lifted the lid (first video), but hindered by an antisocial elephant that jumped on the lid and slammed it shut (second video). Next, the babies saw the two elephants playing with a ball and dropping it. Two moose puppets entered the fray – one (the ‘Giver’) would return the ball to the elephant (third video), and the other (the ‘Taker’) would steal it away (fourth video). The babies were then given a choice between the two moose.
Read the rest here.
What amazes me is the baby's understanding of the situation. Specially in the case of the shapes experiment. They are able to grasp the difficulty of climbing, to infer independent agency and to identify help.
Video won't embed.
Watch it here:
I find this truly amazing and it undermines one aspect of the supposedly "learned moral judgment". I am also wondering about animals; would chimpanzee, dogs, mice react the same way as babies ?
We were discussing empathetic rats here in AU a short while ago (see here). Even rodents feel other rodent's stress and try to help them out.
Sure we learn moral behavior, and different cultures have different moral codes, but we come equipped with a "moral instinct" from nature, that allow us to flourish as a social species.
Inequity aversion, for example is experience by monkeys also, not just us humans.
It is a superb video, Kim, thanks for the link.