Even Babies Think Crime Deserves Punishment


Credit: Kiley Hamlin, University of British Columbia Center for Infant Cognition

Even Babies Think Crime Deserves Punishment

Babies as young as 8 months want to see wrongdoers punished, a new study finds.

In contrast, younger babies prefer toِ seeِ individuals beingِ nice toِ oneِ anotherِ — evenِ when thatِ means thatِ someoneِ isِ nice toِ a character whoِ deserves a slap onِ the wrist.
This study helps toِ answer questions thatِ haveِ puzzled evolutionary psychologists forِ decades, Kiley Hamlin, a psychologist atِ the University ofِ British Columbia, saidِ inِ a statement.
Namely, howِ haveِ we survived asِ intensely social creatures ifِ our sociability makesِ us vulnerable toِ beingِ cheated andِ exploited.

Helping and hindering

But theyِ wondered whetherِ theِ infants wouldِ alwaysِ want toِ seeِ niceness forِ niceness’ sake, orِ whether meanِ individuals mightِ beِ anِ exception toِ thisِ rule.
So theِ researchers set upِ a series ofِ experiments usingِ puppets toِ act outِ scenarios ofِ helping andِ harming whileِ eachِ of 32 5-month-olds andِ 32 8-month-olds watched separately.
The puppets — a series ofِ cheerful characters, including moose, elephants andِ a yellow duck — wereِ firstِ shown interacting inِ eitherِ nice orِ meanِ ways.

Meting out punishment

The researchers wanted toِ knowِ ifِ the babies wouldِ prefer theِ ball-giving puppet orِ the oneِ that tookِ theِ ball away.
They foundِ that 5-month-olds alwaysِ preferred theِ ball-giver, noِ matter whetherِ theِ puppet thatِ hadِ dropped theِ ball hadِ beenِ mean orِ helpful inِ the previous scene.
At thisِ young age, theِ babies simply likedِ puppets toِ beِ nice inِ the moment.

Social calculations

28) inِ the journal Proceedings ofِ the National Academy ofِ Sciences, reveal thatِ babies develop a sense ofِ justice betweenِ 5 andِ 8 months ofِ age, Hamlin said.
We find that, byِ eight months, babies haveِ developed nuanced views ofِ reciprocity andِ can conduct theseِ complex social evaluations muchِ earlier thanِ previously thought, sheِ said.
Although thisِ sense ofِ justice mayِ beِ learned, Hamlin said, theِ early age atِ which itِ develops suggests thatِ anِ urge toِ punish antisocial types mayِ beِ partially innate..