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Babies help unlock the origins of morality

(23 Posts)
Bags Mon 19-Nov-12 21:51:01

Watch the nice wee video

Anne58 Mon 19-Nov-12 21:56:52

Interesting, the old "nature versus nurture" debate.

It does beg the question about such things, for example imagine Adolf Hitler as a tiny baby? How can any tiny baby be seen as evil or bad?

Greatnan Mon 19-Nov-12 22:13:46

I had a nephew who was a really horrible baby. He would put his arms up to you, when he was about ten months old, and when you bent down to pick him up he would spit at you. His father , my brother-in-law, was an extremely unpleasant man and the atmosphere in the house was tense. Did this affect the baby?
One of my own daughters was a very happy baby, always chuckling and cheerful. The other was born miserable and remained that way. As far as I know, I treated them the same. I have my own theory, that everybody's brain chemistry is different and some people have more or less seratonin.
Could my babies have been affected by my own diet, or my worries during pregnancy (we moved house, 250 miles away from my mother and sister, whilst I was pregnant). Of course, like most mothers, I thought I must be responsible in some way.
I don't see how we can separate all the influences to which the foetus and new born baby are subject. I don't accept the concept of evil, as an entity outside of ourselves but I do believe that some people are born with a propensity to do evil things. Perhaps their experiences in early life (or even in the womb) decide whether or not they follow that path.

jeni Mon 19-Nov-12 22:16:49

Absolutely fascinating!(sorry pedants)

Greatnan Mon 19-Nov-12 22:23:13

What are you sorry for, jeni?

I think primitive man had to learn to cooperate with others in order to succeed in the hunt for food - we can see this easily in other species, such as wolves, so it is clearly a factor in survival. I am, of course, dismissing any nonsense about original sin.

Anne58 Mon 19-Nov-12 22:27:26

Quite right, Greatnan the whole concept of original sin with regard to babies is abhorrent.

absentgrana Tue 20-Nov-12 09:02:55

Not massively conclusive. I wonder if they have tried this experiment with other animals.

Bags Tue 20-Nov-12 09:13:32

I don't think it's caliming to be "massively conclusive". It seems more like an observational experiment than anything else. A start. It will be interesting to see how the research develops, if it does. I think there have been experiments already which show that other social species, especially our closest ape cousins, have this ability to distinguish 'good' behaviour from 'bad'. Not surprising really in species which depend on the group for survival to some extent.

Elegran Tue 20-Nov-12 09:28:18

In each case they had the good puppet on the same side. They should have varied it so as to cut out any bias toward the baby looking first at the one on its left, then moving its gaze to the right. I believe that most people turn to the right after going through a doorway (can't quote a source for that though).

Very interesting.

Greatnan Tue 20-Nov-12 09:31:28

We do know that other species feel depression, sadness, sympathy and empathy. We are not unique, as some religions would have us believe.
The sight of elephants consoling a cow who has lost her baby is deeply moving.

Bags Tue 20-Nov-12 09:33:53

Good point, elegran, but we only saw a few snatches. The video does not represent the entire sample of babies.

Bags Tue 20-Nov-12 09:34:51

Posted too soon.

So we don't know if the puppets were always on the same side during the experiment.

jO5 Tue 20-Nov-12 09:41:15

Such a sweet vid! Little darlings! smile

jO5 Tue 20-Nov-12 09:41:35

Sorry Bags. blush

absentgrana Tue 20-Nov-12 10:46:52

I think they did change the colours the puppets were wearing, which could also be relevant.

jO5 Tue 20-Nov-12 11:22:13

Babies of that age wouldn't have any concept of what a box is. Or what a cuddly toy was trying to do to it.

Complete Bxxxxx

Greatnan Tue 20-Nov-12 11:26:04

I don't think we have idea of what concepts babies have.

jO5 Tue 20-Nov-12 11:38:52

A three month old baby knows what a box is?

Granny23 Tue 20-Nov-12 17:03:36

Bags I loved the look of intense concentration on their wee faces - a look I remember well from my own two and latterly the DGC. I am sure tiny babies know far more than we give them credit for. When you look into their big eyes you can see the intelligence there, when you talk to them seriously you can see them absorbing and processing the information. If you play 'peek-a-boo' they will soon grasp the essentials - look puzzled when Granny disappears, smile when she pops up again. As soon as they can manipulate a blanket they become active participants in the game.

When my DDs returned after 3,4,5, years at college and University they had changed a bit and were certainly knowledgeable about their chosen subjects, but this change was as nothing when compared to the progress they made over the first 3,4,5 years of their life, especially when you remember that half of the time they were asleep (no doubt busy processing information received!). From a blank page at birth, within 5 years most will have mastered walking, talking, swimming, eating, basic counting, drawing, reading and writing, will understand night and day, holidays, TVs, computers, light switches, cooking, recognise people - I could go on and on but it is astonishing. If only one or two children could do these things we would count them as super geniuses, because most children can manage so much so soon, we take it for granted.

Sorry to disagree JO5 but have you never watched a, say, five month old with a BOX - they will do everything in their power to open it. Only thing that stops them before that is lack of motor skills. We keep a toy box at our house and DGS & DGD1 could open it by themselves by the time they were one. DGD2 had a different method - she would bang loudly on the lid until an exasperated GP opened it for her - but all 3 clearly understood the concept of a box and that exciting things might be contained therein.

Ana Tue 20-Nov-12 17:10:13

Am I being cynical in thinking that the banging noise made when the 'bad' puppet slammed the box shut could have put the babies off? It may have been nothing to do with 'behaviour' at all...

jO5 Tue 20-Nov-12 17:13:57

Hmmm. Think it might be quite different having the box physically there within their own reach and being able to handle it themselves, and watching the demonstrations shown on the video. Especially the three month olds.

But we can agree to disagree. smile

jO5 Tue 20-Nov-12 17:15:30

Good point Ana.

Bags Tue 20-Nov-12 17:17:06

Not cynical, nag, but scientific. It's a good point. Just shows how difficult it is to design good experiments.

G23, yes, it's worth watching just to look at their faces, isn't it? smile