Best Judges of Character

Sometimes, experience gets in the way of clarity:

Babies gravitate toward good Samaritans, study says

Six- and 10-month-old babies are much more capable judges of character than previously thought. Not only can infants pick out a good Samaritan, they tend to identify with them, according to a Yale University study published in the journal Nature.

The study released last month presented babies with a diorama-like display of an anthropomorphic circle struggling to make it up a hill. Just when it appeared that all hope was lost, a heroic triangle appeared, and pushed the circle to the top. The round climber bounces, clearly elated to have reached the summit. The same scenario is played out again, only this time a square appears at the top of the hill and pushes the circle to the bottom.

The babies were then asked to pick a toy – the helper or the hinderer, as scientists called them. One hundred percent of 6-month-olds and 87.5 percent of 10-month-olds chose the helper. The results were consistent even when the triangle and the square swapped places as good guy and bad guy. In several other iterations of the experiment, the helper, regardless of shape or color, won out.

“Babies are very competent socially,” says Kiley Hamlin, lead author of the study. “They can figure this kind of stuff out without people explicitly teaching what’s nice and not nice and who’s nice and who’s not nice.”

Natural born anarchists?

If only the world did not crush intuitive wisdom out of its babies….

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