Infants Show Preference for Altruism
Are we born samaritans? New research from Yale University suggests infants as young as six months old show a preference towards people whose actions make them "helpers" as opposed to "hinderers."
In an experiment involving 16 10-month-olds and 12 six-month-olds, infants viewed a blue circle character with glued-on eyes called "The Climber." As the Climber tried to climb a hill, it encountered two characters: a "helper" triangle that pushed it up the hill from behind and a "hinderer" square that pushed it down from above.
After the infants watched these events, they were given the option of picking either they triangle or square toy as researchers monitored their choices and looking time. They found that 14 of the 16 ten-month-olds and all the six-month-olds preferred the helper triangle over the hinderer square. In a follow-up experiment, they also preferred the triangle to a neutral character--and the neutral character to the square.
The infants' evaluations were based solely on what they witnessed as bystanders, and not on their own relationships or experiences with any of the figures. The researchers were also able to gauge a response of surprise when the infants watched the "climber" move toward the "hinderer" rather than the "helper."
According to the authors, these findings show that infants evaluate people based on the way they act towards others. The fact that they do so at such a young age supports the idea that altruism and social evaluation are biological adaptions.
ABSTRACT: Social evaluation by preverbal infants
Posted by FindCounseling.com Staff on November 23, 2007 at 05:51 AM | Permalink
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