“To have a genuinely moral system, in other words, some things first have to matter, and what we see in babies is the development of mattering.

I’m in the midst of another parenting transition where my son’s development from infant to toddler has me focusing less on basics and more on behavior. Screen Grab for "Can Babies Tell Right from Wrong"“Hitting and biting are common during this time” (so true!) is a sentence included in the welcome packet I received recently from his new toddler-room teachers. So this week’s New York Times Magazine story on “The Moral Lives of Babies” caught my eye.

Contrary to historic theories that babies are a moral “blank slate,” the article describes new research out of Yale University that indicates babies may have a “rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.” This five-minute video demonstrates some of the research experiments behind these findings of whether babies can tell right from wrong. It’s a helpful way in to this lengthy article on behavioral testing and our ongoing fascination with the question of nature or nurture and human development.

[updated May 16, 2010: added the embed video]


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1Reflection

Reflections

Interesting. I wonder if it could be at least partly that the baby is responding to the abruptness that characterizes the "bad guy" behavior in these puppet shows. Usually the "bad" behavior is quick and decisive, in comparison to the more fluid movements of the "good" behavior. Also, are the experiments rotated to ensure that it is not the color, shape, or other external feature that motivates the baby's behavior?