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Even Babies Know Good from Evil

Babies know the difference between good and evil at six months, study reveals

By David Derbyshire

At the age of six months babies can barely sit up – let along take their first tottering steps, crawl or talk.

But, according to psychologists, they have already developed a sense of moral code – and can tell the difference between good and evil.

An astonishing series of experiments is challenging the views of many psychologists and social scientists that human beings are born as ‘blank slates’ – and that our morality is shaped by our parents and experiences.

Instead, they suggest that the difference between good and bad may be hardwired into the brain at birth.

In one experiment involving puppets, babies aged six months old showed a strong preference to ‘good’ helpful characters – and rejected unhelpful, ‘naughty’ ones.

In another, they even acted as judge and jury. When asked to take away treats from a ‘naughty’ puppet, some babies went further – and dished out their own punishment with a smack on its head.

Professor Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University in Connecticut, whose department has studied morality in babies for years, said: ‘A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.

‘With the help of well designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life.

‘Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bones.’

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