November 23, 2007
Young Babies Prefer Altruists?

Babies reach for wooden dolls which they see help other dolls?

New Haven, Conn.—In the first evidence of its kind to date, Yale researchers find that infants prefer individuals who help others to those who either do nothing, or interfere with others’ goals, it is reported today in Nature.

“This supports the view that our ability to evaluate people is a biological adaptation—universal and unlearned,” said the authors of the study.

The study included six-and-10-month-old babies whose preferences were determined by recording which of two actors they reached towards.

In the first experiment, infants saw a wooden character with large glued-on eyes known as “The Climber.” At first, the climber rested at the bottom of a hill. The climber repeatedly tried without success to make it up the hill and was then either helped to the top by a triangular character that pushed the climber from behind, or hindered by a square character that pushed the climber down the hill.

During the test phase—after the infants had sufficiently processed the events—the researchers measured the infants’ attitudes towards the helper and hinderer by seeing which characters they reached for. Fourteen of the 16 10-month-olds, and all 12 six-month-olds, preferred the helper. A second experiment ruled out the possibility that the infants were merely responding to the direction in which the figures were moving. In a third experiment, infants of both ages preferred a helper to a neutral party, and then a neutral party over one who hindered.

What about the two infants that reached for the hinderer? Young Eric Cartmans? Bad to the bone? Or dumb clueless Forrest Gumps? Do the kids with autism or Asperger's Syndrome express a preference for the helpers?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 November 23 06:06 PM  Brain Altruism

Audacious Epigone said at November 29, 2007 7:00 AM:

Maybe a triangle is just easier to grasp than a square. I'm surprised they didn't also run the experiment with the roles of the shapes reversed.

Bob Badour said at December 1, 2007 5:38 PM:

The autistic kids are going to grab both, line them up and stare at them.

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