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Do Babies Possess A Moral Compass?

| Filed under: Baby BlabberWacky, Tacky & True

Gotta love the sound of science.

A study conducted five years ago concluded that babies had an innate sense to know right from wrong.

However, new findings reveal that babies potentially do NOT have a moral compass, but rather that those aforementioned test results were just an indication of a baby's fondness for bouncy things.

The researchers from the first study, however, stand by their original findings.

Here's what the original study consisted of:

"In the original study, conducted by Yale researchers in 2007, groups of 6-month-olds and 10-month-olds watched a puppet show with neutral wooden figures, where one figure, the climber, was trying to get up a hill. In one scenario, one of the other figures, called the helper, assisted the climber up the hill. In the other scenario, a third figure, called the hinderer, pushed the climber down. Babies were then presented with the helper and hinderer figures so they could pick which one they preferred, and 14 out of 16 babies in the older group (10 months old) and all 12 of the 6-month-olds picked the helper. The study, which was published in the journal Nature, seemed to imply that infants could be good judges of character."

Researcher in New Zealand, however, did their own research and found that the results (above) were possibly because of a baby's predilection for bouncy things rather than their concern for the safety of the puppet climbers.

Here's what those researchers said:

"For example, when we had the climber bounce at the bottom of the hill, but not at the top of the hill, infants preferred the hinderer, that is, the one that pushed the climber down the hill. If the social evaluation hypothesis was correct, we should have seen a clear preference for the helper, irrespective of the location of the bounce, because the helper always helped the climber achieve its goal of reaching the top of the hill."

The researchers from Yale, who concluded the babies DO have a moral compass, aren't sure this new research holds any weight.

Here's what they said:

"For instance, the climber's gaze is usually pointed downward, unlike that in the Hamlin experiments, confusing the intended goal, which is to climb upward. Also, the during the helping events, the climber resumes its ascent before being contacted by the helper, 'as if able to climb the hill on its own,' Hamlin and colleagues write, adding, 'Finally, and most strangely, during the Hindering events, the Climber starts to move downwards before the Hinderer makes contact, further clouding its intended goal.'"

Plus those same researcher say they've conducted similar studies where they haven't used a bouncy puppet, and still found babies had moral compasses.

We just love these SCIENCE WARS!!!!

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