Are Babies Moral?

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 4:55 am

Are Babies Moral?

To have a genuinely moral system, in other words, some things first have to matter, and what we see in babies is the development of mattering.”

I’m in the midst of another parenting transition where my son’s development from infant to toddler has me focusing less on basics and more on behavior. Screen Grab for "Can Babies Tell Right from Wrong"“Hitting and biting are common during this time” (so true!) is a sentence included in the welcome packet I received recently from his new toddler-room teachers. So this week’s New York Times Magazine story on “The Moral Lives of Babies” caught my eye.
Contrary to historic theories that babies are a moral “blank slate,” the article describes new research out of Yale University that indicates babies may have a “rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.” This five-minute video demonstrates some of the research experiments behind these findings of whether babies can tell right from wrong. It’s a helpful way in to this lengthy article on behavioral testing and our ongoing fascination with the question of nature or nurture and human development.

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is the cofounder of On Being¬†and currently serves as publisher & editor-in-chief. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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