Friday, May 7, 2010

The minds of babes

The New York Times Magazine has an interesting article on the morals of babies. If you show 1-year-olds a puppet show with one puppet acting nice and one acting mean, and then ask the baby to take a treat away from a bowl in front of one or the other, they take it from the mean puppet, and sometimes they smack it in the head, as well. We already knew babies were selectively eager to help. If you have read the Scientist in the Crib or the Philosophical Baby, by Alison Gopnik, nothing here will surprise you, but it is a nice summary of what is known. Babies have an inborn ability to make inferences and moral judgments.

When it's working well, a baby's mind is a wonderous thing, but there are so many ways adults (and genes, which adults are also responsible for, physically if not morally) can screw it up.

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