A Moral Compass Is Apparent Even in Infants

Medscape Staff

June 13, 2022

Even babies as young as 8 months old can recognize bad behavior and punish it, according to researchers at Osaka University in Japan.

What to know:

  • Observations of 8-month-old babies indicate they are capable of punishing antisocial behavior they see in a third party as a natural human reaction rather than something they learn over time.

  • Preverbal infants observed a computer system that displayed animations on a screen. If they looked at an object on the screen long enough, the object would be destroyed.

  • Infants were given three scenarios that were designed to exclude alternative interpretations of the infants' gazing behaviors.

  • When the infants were shown videos that appeared to show someone injuring another person, the infants punished the aggressor by staring at the image onscreen and destroying it.

  • The findings could be a turning point in infant cognitive research and provide new insight into the decision-making of infants.

This is a summary of the article, "Born With a Moral Compass? Even Babies Know to Punish Antisocial Behavior," published in Nature Human Behavior on June 10, 2022. The full article can be found on resou.osaka-u.ac.jp.

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