Saturday, August 10, 2013

Do Babies Have Morals

When I look into my baby’s eyes, I wonder what he is thinking.  What is he soaking in and how is it already shaping his world and personality?  Sometimes it feels like a baby is just a “blob” but at other times, it feels as though babies hold the secrets to the universe and as they adjust to our world, the secrets disappear as they adapt to our world.  It’s that “old soul” look in the eyes of newborns.

The other day, there was a television show on babies, so you know my husband and I were glued.  The topic was, “Are babies born with morals or are they learned?”  Did anyone else watch this show?  I’d love to know your thoughts.

I’ll give a quick rundown.  The researchers used puppets to create situations and then asked the baby which puppet they liked.

First example:  Bunny puppet was trying to open a box of toys, but bunny wasn’t able to.  Blue Puppy puppet came over and helped Bunny.  Then, Bunny puppet again tried to open a box of toys and wasn’t able to do so again.  Red puppy puppet came over and slammed the box shut.

A different researcher, who didn’t know which blue and red puppet did what, asked the baby, “Which one do you like?”  I think the result was that 80 percent or so 5 month old babies picked the blue puppet, the one that helped. 

The same experiment was conducted on babies who were too young to grab the puppet.  The researcher watched the babies eyes.. if a baby doesn’t like something, the baby won’t look long.  But if the baby likes something, the baby will look a longer period of time.  Even the young babies looked longer at the blue bunny.

The question then became, “If babies are born with a moral sense, why do people end up doing bad things?”

In the next puppet example, I believe they had a yellow bear do something mean to the bunny.  Then when the yellow bear tried to open the toy box, the green bear slammed the toy box shut.  This time, when asked which bear the baby liked, they picked the green bear – the one who slammed the toy box shut.  Was this a sense of justice?

Another example… the researcher asked the baby, “Which cereal do you like?  Graham crackers or Cheerios?”  The baby picked Cheerios.  Then the blue bunny came out and ate the Cheerios and a red bunny came out and at the Graham crackers.  When the researcher asked which bunny the baby liked, the baby picked the puppet that liked the Cheerios.  This lead to the topic of children “liking like” – what is similar to us we like to be around.  This then went to the topic of racial differences being possibly there from the get-go of birth.  I do know this, children can be cruel to other kids who are different.  My Mom is a prime example with her having albinism.  Mom looked different and when she was little, the children would spit on her and call her names. 

So, all of this from birth, wow…. And scary. 

Another example was given across the span of ages…  children were told, “On the blue board are two discs on one side and no discs on the other side.  On the green board there are four discs on one side and four discs on the other side of the board.  Whatever board color you pick, you will get the discs and another little girl who you have never met and will never meet will get the discs on the other side.  Each disc goes towards getting a gift.”

Babies picked the blue board (2 on the side for the baby and 0 for the little unknown girl) – even though the babies got less discs, they didn’t want someone else getting more.  And this was true for toddlers and slightly older children.  They were willing to sacrifice what they got as long as the “other girl” didn’t get anything.

But then, as the child age group became older, the kids became less greedy.. they started to pick the pieces that would give to the other girl, sometimes even where they themselves would get less and the other girl get more.  As the researcher said, “Chalk one up for society for teaching our children to be more giving.”

What does all of this mean?  That we are still clueless but maybe that babies have morals, a sense of justice, they don’t like differences and are greedy.

I hope my baby doesn’t judge me and find me lacking.  I hope that he knows the love I have for him.  I hope we are able to raise him to want to be kind and thoughtful to others and to make good choices in life.


S.I.F. said...

That is fascinating stuff! I wish I had seen the show!

Cheryl said...

I think this is an amazingly interesting topic. As I see the personalities that my babies had versus their adult traits, I truly believe that some things are inborn. Morality??? I am not sure about that but how can one explain how evil some people are. I hope that the children are picking puppets because they favor a color and have yet to know the difference between good and bad.

As far as little Gregory goes, he isn't thinking anything negative...he's thinking how beautiful you are and how he adores his mommy. I remember thinking how wonderful my mommy was when I was little.

Amanda said...

I believe I've seen that same special and found it very interesting! I'm always wondering if the baby in uetro is judging me too! Like why is my mom laying around all the time and why did she eat all that food that gives her heartburn. I guess I never thought about those things before!