HARTFORD (CBS Connecticut) — New Zealand researchers have discovered that babies are not born with a moral compass, contradicting a 2007 Yale study that found otherwise.
In a study published in PLoS One, researchers from the University of Otago concluded that the Yale study “reflected simple associations rather than social evaluations” and that infants in the first study were more likely drawn toward “attention-grabbing events.”
Damian Scarf, Kana Imuta, Michael Colombo and Harlene Hayne conducted a nearly identical study to that of the Yale researchers, which used one wooden figure that was attempting to climb a hill – referred to as the climber – and another hindering figure that attempted to block the climber from making its way up.
Unlike in the Yale study, Otago researchers eliminated the aspect where the climber would bounce and dance after reaching the top of the hill.
The researchers conducted two different types of experiments. As stated, in the first experiment, they eliminated the climber bouncing at the top of the hill and pitted the helper against a neutral character. In a second experiment, the researchers had both the climber and hinderer bounce in several trials.
The first experiment found that seven out of eight infants picked the neutral character over the non-bouncing climber.
In the second experiment, when either the climber or the hinderer bounced, the babies picked the bouncing figures 12 out of 16 times. When both the climber and hinderer bounced at the same time, an equal number of eight babies picked each.
“When combined with the arguments against the very concept of moral nativism, our findings call into question the view that infants enter this world with an innate moral compass,” Scarf wrote in the study.
The 2007 Yale study originally concluded that babies could evaluate individuals as good or bad.