Through a great blog post on Ode by Jeremy Mercer I learned about the research into the morality of babies by psychologist Paul Bloom. Last year Bloom published an essay in the New York Times about his work. As Bloom notes:
"...a team of researchers watched a 1-year-old boy take justice into his own hands. The boy had just seen a puppet show in which one puppet played with a ball while interacting with two other puppets. The center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the right, who would pass it back. And the center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the left . . . who would run away with it. Then the two puppets on the ends were brought down from the stage and set before the toddler. Each was placed next to a pile of treats. At this point, the toddler was asked to take a treat away from one puppet. Like most children in this situation, the boy took it from the pile of the “naughty” one. But this punishment wasn’t enough — he then leaned over and smacked the puppet in the head."Bloom and his colleagues have discovered through their research that babies have "certain moral foundations -- the capacity and willingness to judge the actions of others, some sense of justice, gut responses to altruism and nastiness." Certainly they don't have an advanced sense of morality, with all its depth and shades of grey, but it appears that babies are born knowing a basic sense of right and wrong.
Read Bloom's complete essay here.
I was glad to come across this essay, not because I’m surprised, but because I think it’s great to confirm more quantitatively what a lot of us – especially we who have dedicated ourselves to working for a humane world for all -- have deeply known for some time: that goodness and compassion are our default operating system. It’s up to us to help nurture in ourselves and each other those qualities that reflect the best of what it means to be human.
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