The Moral Life of Babies

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yale professor Paul Bloom has studied the moral life of babies at Yale’s Infant Cognition Center, and he explains describes his research showing that babies are actually capable of understanding morality.

His article "The Moral Life of Babies" appears in the May 9 New York Times Magazine. Paul Bloom is also the author of the forthcoming book How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like.


Paul Bloom

Comments [5]

Amy from Manhattan

I still have a problem w/labeling the characters the babies watch as "good" & "bad," & "evil" even more so. For babies, it might be more a question of wanting nice things for someone they like & not for someone they don't rather than making a moral judgment.

May. 13 2010 12:29 PM
a g from nj

i am curious as to what the guess thinks happens when people become socio-paths or psycho-paths. where do babies go wrong? any possible inkling at that young an age. i know this is dangerous territory,but it is not as if people don't think about these things.

May. 13 2010 12:20 PM
Nikita from Teaneck, NJ

I had a brother with severe brain damage and paralysis from the beginning of his life, and who died when he was 13. I remember we used to watch a show on TV with scenes described as unethical situations, my brother cried to complain. On the other hand, the scenes for happy occasions, he smiled. My observation is not scientific, but it seems that morality is, as you say, hard-wired.

May. 13 2010 12:18 PM
Tom Crisp from uws

My goddaughter had a book with photos of babies in different emotional moods. At six months of age, she looked at the happy baby and smiled; the worried baby worried her ... and the crying baby made her cry, with a show of deep distress. I took this not as mimic-ing, but as empathy, and not as simply learned, but as instinctive as well.

May. 13 2010 12:14 PM
Catherine from Rockville Centre

The traditional Christian view before the Reformation was always that we are born with the image of God within (the imago dei) - which has generally been understood to mean the ability to reason and a sense of morality.

The Enlightenment liked everything clean: therefore human blank slates, and the cleansing of religion to be "purified."

I can't help but make a gender connection here - I don't think moms have ever thought that their children were blank slates in any way.Only someone who has never spent time with infants could believe that children are born as blank slates.

May. 13 2010 12:14 PM

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