Do Babies Have a Moral Compass?

Before our babies become bigger, walking, talking, reasoning children, it can be difficult to know if they can actually grasp the difference between right and wrong. Do babies have a moral compass?  Is my baby doing X, Y or Z because she is testing the boundaries to figure out if it’s right or wrong?

Previous research in 2007 pointed to the fact that babies do have a moral compass, but new research may have disputed this.

Babies in the 2007 experiment watched a wooden toy (“the climber”) climb a hill.  Then they watched two interactions; in the first, there was a “helper” toy that nudged the climber toy up the hill and in the second scenario the “hinderer” toy nudged the climber back down the hill.  In the study babies seemed to show preference for the “helper” toy over the “hinderer” toy and when given the choice between a neutral toy and the “hinderer” toy babies chose the neutral toy.  Researchers concluded that babies evaluate people based on their interactions with other people and that it is innate to their being.

The new study shows that there were actually perceptual factors that were driving the babies’ choices rather than an innate “rightness” or “wrongness”.

What’s your take? Research aside, do you believe that babies are born with a moral compass?


Lauren Hartmann is the founder of The Little Things We Do, a blog about life and adventures in Portland Oregon. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, or catch up on all of her posts here on Babble.

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Article Posted 6 years Ago

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