Can babies tell the difference between right and wrong?

In 2007, a Yale University study concluded that babies between the ages of six and 10 months are capable of discerning good from bad, indicating that humans have some sense of morality beginning very early in life, possibly even from birth. Exciting, right? Well, five years later, research out of New Zealand is suggesting that this may not be the case at all. 


The Yale study used a "help" or "hinder" model in which toys were used to mimic social interactions in which one toy either assisted or sabotaged the other while the babies watched. The vast majority of the babies exhibited a preference for the helping toy. Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand recently conducted a similar study, but eliminated some of the variables they suspected of influencing the preferences of the babies in the original experiment and the results of their study did in fact vary more than those of the Yale study.

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According to an interview with the Huffington Post, Paul Bloom, lead researcher on the Yale study, is not sold on the more recent research, sighting that studies have also been done by researchers from Harvard, University of Illinois, University of Washington, and University of Trento that corroborate his team's research.

Personally, I'm not convinced by the results of either study. It's impossible for anyone to know the exact capacities of a newborn, a fact admitted by University of Otago's Dr. Damien Scarf. And by the time a child is six to 10 months old, it is very likely that they have experienced discipline in some form and have already begun to learn right from wrong. Like many things pertaining to human development, it's unlikely that doctors and scientists will ever be 100 percent sure. I'm okay with that -- there are some things that are just meant to remain mysteries. 

Do you think babies are born knowing right from wrong? Tell us in the comments below!

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