At six months of age, babies are just starting to sit up and are far from even taking their first steps or talking. According to psychologists however, while babies may not be walking around or having conversations at the age of six months, they already have their own sense of a moral code and therefore can distinguish between good and bad.
There are an alarming number of experiments being conducted in the field of psychology which are challenging the previous notion that humans are born as “blank slates”. Many psychologists and social scientists are beginning to believe that the ability to know the difference between good and evil is actually present at birth.
In one particular experiment, the researchers presented six month olds with puppets and found that they was a strong preference toward the helpful and good character rather than the bad or evil character, which the babies tended to reject.
Another study had the babies acting as judge and jury. When encouraged to take away the treats from the bad puppet, some babies even punished the puppet in their own way, such as a slap on its head.
Psychologist and professor from Yale University out of Connecticut, Paul Bloom believes that there is plenty of evidence that suggests that humans contain a moral sense from birth. According to Bloom, with the right experiments, we are able to see incidences of moral thought and feeling within the first year of a human’s life.
In another study involving puppets, babies from the age of six months to one year were shown a puppet show in which one colorful character tries to climb a hill. Sometimes another character will try to help the puppet up the hill while other times, a different character will try to push the puppet down the hill, preventing him from succeeding. After the babies watched this puppet show multiple times, they were presented with the helpful and unhelpful characters and were found to prefer the helpful toys than the unhelpful, based on the fact that they spent a much longer time looking at and playing with the helpful toys.
Bloom stated that this study did not produce just a statistical trend, since almost every baby showed a preference to the good character. Two other similar experiments produced the same results.
One study involved a play where a dog tries to open up a box. He is soon joined by a bear that tries to assist him in opening the box and then another bear that prevents them from opening the box by sitting on top of it. In another, babies watched a cat puppet roll a ball to a rabbit, which then rolled it back to the cat. When the cat rolled it to another rabbit, the rabbit picked it up and ran away with the ball. Most babies preferred the helpful toys and didn’t care much for the naughty ones.
There are still psychologists however, that do not believe that we are born with a moral code but rather we immediately start learning the difference between good and bad. In terms of the experiments Dr. Reissland believes that results all are contingent on who decides what should be considered normal. In terms of the puppet going up the hill, perhaps the babies just liked seeing things go up rather than down. By stating that helping the puppet up the hill is being helpful, the researchers were making a moral judgment, therefore affecting the results.
Reference:Derbyshire, D. 2010. Babies Know the Difference between Good and Evil at Six Months, Study Reveals. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1275574/Babies-know-difference-good-evil-months-study-reveals.html