Baby Justice

In the News (from LiveScience): “Babies as young as 8 months want to see wrongdoers punished, a new study finds.

“In contrast, younger babies prefer to see individuals being nice to one another — even when that means that someone is nice to a character who deserves a slap on the wrist.

“So, the researchers [from the University of British Columbia, Canada] set up a series of experiments using puppets to act out scenarios of helping and harming while each of 32 5-month-olds and 32 8-month-olds watched separately. After each experiment, the infants indicated their preference for the puppets’ behaviors by picking their favorite puppet to hold.

“The puppets — a series of cheerful characters, including moose, elephants and a yellow duck — were first shown interacting in either nice or mean ways.

Social calculations

“The findings, reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal that babies develop a sense of justice between 5 and 8 months of age, Hamlin said.

“’We find that, by eight months, babies have developed nuanced views of reciprocity and can conduct these complex social evaluations much earlier than previously thought,’ she said.

“Although this sense of justice may be learned, Hamlin said, the early age at which it develops suggests that an urge to punish antisocial types may be partially innate.”

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