Researchers at Yale University's "baby lab" are finding that infants as young as three months old can not only tell the difference between "good" and "bad," but show a preference toward the former. The study—which will be featured on Sunday's episode of 60 Minutes—suggests that morality isn't learned, but innate.
The study was conducted through a puppet show of sorts performed for one infant at a time. In it, one puppet would attempt to open a toy box, and experience some difficulty. A second, nice puppet would help the first puppet get the toy box open. Then the show restarts, with the first puppet trying to get the toy box open. A third, mean puppet would slam the box closed and stop the first puppet from getting at the toys.
After the puppet show, the infants were shown the mean puppet and the nice puppet by a researcher who doesn't know which puppet is which. The babies are then asked which one they like, and more than 75% of them reached for the nice puppet. For infants as young as three months, who can't really reach for things, the study considered the amount of time they looked at each puppet. The younger babies tended to hold their gaze on the nice puppets much longer than the mean ones.
So what does this all mean? With the findings consistently showing that babies feel positively toward "helpful" individuals, it could mean that at our core, as human beings, we are hardwired for "good" over "evil."
Can infants tell good from bad? [CBS News]