The topic of the article selected is based on ‘Moral Compass’ of babies. This topic is related to development theory and behavioural response topics, which are found within the psychology syllabus. ‘Moral Compass’ in this case refers to anything or instincts, which guide an individual in making a decision while basing such decisions on virtues and morals, or behavioural conduct. As such, ‘Moral Compass’ enables one to distinguish between good and bad behaviour, character, and manners. Science Daily claims that babies between 6 and 10 months do not possess a ‘Moral Compass’. This contrasts an earlier research conducted by Yale University researchers in 2007, which argues that babies between 6 and 10 months possess a ‘Moral Compass’. My psychology study has changed my perception on how I view the event of ‘Moral Compass’ to babies and I am now able to comprehend why babies have preference for some individuals in society while they dislike others.
Prior to studying psychology, I never thought that babies would possess a ‘Moral Compass’, which influences their dislike and likes of individuals in society. I thought that babies would only make a difference between good and bad people in society once they are able to know what is good and bad, and they can speak eloquently. My perception of a baby’s innocence was that babies have to be innocent until they learn morals and virtues in society and start differentiating them on the basis of good or bad. As such, I would not have viewed that babies possess a ‘Moral Compass’. On the same note, I thought that babies are only able to differentiate between good and bad based on conditioning theory. In this, grownups have to guide the baby in showing them what is good and what is bad, as well as good and bad people in society.
The ability of babies to develop an attitude and attraction to some activities as they interact with them has impacted my view of the event. When a baby is crawling on the floor and notices a sudden movement nearby, the baby turns and looks at the movements. The baby is then attracted to such movements and moves closer to them. This makes babies to develop an urge of play and all their attention is directed towards such movements. On the same note, babies are able to look at the movements and identify the positive and negative movements. Positive movements tend to attract the baby while negative movements tend to distract the baby.
Further, there is a clear difference between behaviour and interactions when it comes to babies between 6 and 10 months. At this age, babies respond to the environment based on interactions rather than behaviour. This is because their cognitive abilities for comprehending good and bad behaviour have not yet developed fully. However, their ability to comprehend what is good and bad from their interaction is more developed, which makes them to develop different attractions and attitudes towards good and bad individuals. This is solely based on the interaction, which is developed between the baby and the individual. The ability of different scientific studies to generate different views on ‘Moral Compass’, also attracted me to this event. This is because I was keen to comprehend, which principles were used in making the analysis in each of the studies, as well as what were the generalizations for the studies conducted.
My new and improved perception of ‘Moral Compass’ is that babies possess a ‘Moral Compass’, which enables them to distinguish between good and bad based on the interactions and behavioural responses of individuals. This is because at age 6 and 10 months, babies are developing their cognitive abilities, which grants them an opportunity to associate themselves and comprehend what is happening within their environment. Moreover, between 6 and 10 months, babies tend to be more of imitators of what grownups do rather than doers. Further, at this age, babies are very excited by new movements or objects, which they meet within the environment. As such, they tend to develop a positive attitude to people who interact with them by bringing such objects or making them excited. This really shows that babies differentiate between good and bad based on interactions with people and not behaviour of individuals.
In conclusion, my psychology study has changed my perception on how I view the event of ‘Moral Compass’ to babies and I am now able to comprehend why babies have preference for some individuals in society while they dislike others. However, between 6 and 10 months, babies are not able to differentiate between good and bad people based on behaviour, but based on interaction with such persons. Considering the results obtained from the study conducted as it has been reported by Science Daily, babies possess a ‘Moral Compass’, which is based on their interactions with the environment. Actually, between age 6 and 10 months, babies are not in a position to comprehend what is good or bad behaviour, but they can associate with good and bad acts, as they interact with the environment.
Science Daily. “Babies May Not Have a ‘Moral Compass’ After All.” Web. 16 August. 2012.
Babies May Not Have a 'Moral Compass' After All
The 2007 study by Yale University researchers provided the first evidence that 6- and 10-month-old infants could assess individuals based on their behaviour towards others, showing a preference for those who helped rather than hindered another individual.
Based on a series of experiments, researchers in the Department of Psychology at Otago have shown that the earlier findings may simply be the result of infants' preferences for interesting and attention grabbing events, rather than an ability to evaluate individuals based on their social interactions with others.
The Otago study was recently published in PLoS One, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online journal.
Lead author Dr Damian Scarf says that the Yale study caused an international sensation when it was published in the leading journal Nature.
"The paper received a lot of attention when it was first published, including coverage in the New York Times. It has received well over 100 citations since 2007, a phenomenal number over such a short period. The paper was initially brought to our attention by one of the PhD students in our lab. The head of the lab, Professor Harlene Hayne, suggested that a group of us read the paper together and then meet to discuss it. Our original motivation for reading the paper was merely interest. Obviously, the idea that morality is innate is extremely interesting and, if true, would raise questions about which components of our moral system are innate and also have implications for the wider issue of the roles that nature and nurture play in development," says Dr Scarf.
In the original experiment, infants watched a wooden toy (i.e., the "climber") attempt to climb a hill. They viewed two social interactions; one in which a "helper" toy nudged the climber up the hill, and another in which a "hinderer" toy nudged the climber down the hill.
After viewing these two scenarios, the infants were presented with a tray; on one side of the tray was the helper and on the other side was the hinderer. Amazingly, the majority of infants picked the helper over the hinderer. To further elucidate infants' moral reasoning abilities, a "neutral" toy (i.e., a toy that neither helped nor hindered) was pitted against the helper or hinderer. When the neutral character was paired with the helper, the infants preferred the helper; when paired with the hinderer, they preferred the neutral character.
The paper concluded that the experiments show that infants can evaluate individuals based on how they interact with another individual, and that their ability to do this is 'universal and unlearned'.
After reviewing videos of the Yale experiments, the Otago researchers noticed that two obvious perceptual events could be driving infants' choices.
"On the help and hinder trials, the toys collided with one another, an event we thought infants may not like. Furthermore, only on the help trials, the climber bounced up and down at the top of hill, an event we thought infants may enjoy."
The researchers carried out a series experiments to test these assumptions and, by manipulating the collision and bouncing events, were able to show that these perceptual events were driving infants' choices of the helper over the hinderer, Dr Scarf says.
"For example, when we had the climber bounce at the bottom of the hill, but not at the top of the hill, infants preferred the hinderer, that is, the one that pushed the climber down the hill. If the social evaluation hypothesis was correct, we should have seen a clear preference for the helper, irrespective of the location of the bounce, because the helper always helped the climber achieve its goal of reaching the top of the hill."
Although the Yale researchers have followed up their original study with further research findings that appear to support the original study, these too could be explained under the simple association hypothesis, he says.
"Their newer studies employ different paradigms but can still be explained using our simple association hypothesis. While we accept it is not easy to develop paradigms that perfectly match up the perceptual attributes of the helper and hinderer events, we still think there is room for improvement. I look forward to future studies on the topic of moral nativism and hope our study stimulates some discussion."