Can babies tell good people?

I’ve noticed, that Avi, somehow chooses people. I mean, he will hardly go to anybody. Well, actually, there is only one person, who Avi liked right from the start. So far.

It was a miracle. He never ever would leave me and go play with a total stranger. He would start crying even if somebody would hold him while I’m near.

This situation was totally different.

I met my old friend yesterday. We haven’t seen each other for years. She lives in New York now, so finally we decided to have some coffee.

By the way, I’ve already mentioned how hard it is to find a good coffee in New York, right? Here you go, probably, the best coffee in NoHo, Brazilia cafe.

Avi liked Elena the first minute he met her. He felt comfortable enough to go for a walk with her even without me.

This made me wonder:

Can babies tell good people? Or it’s just about the right approach?

As I was researching the topic, I’ve found Paul Bloom’s recent book “Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil”.  As he writes:

Babies are moral animals, equipped by evolution with empathy and compassion, the capacity to judge the actions of others, and even some rudimentary understanding of justice and fairness.

Infants remain the most difficult subject of research. It was only in the 1980’s that researchers developed a way to study infants by tracking the movement of their eyes as “windows to their souls,” or at least a window into their likes and dislikes. Infants are used to stare longer to things that surprise or please them. Basing on this knowledge, psychologists found that babies are aware of basic laws of nature. However, this knowledge is quite limited within so called “naive physics”.

“Naive physics” raised the question of “naive psychology”.

A child watches on as a red ball tries desperately to climb a hill. Meanwhile, a yellow square blocks its path or a green triangle gentle pushes the red ball over the impasse. It’s simple: yellow square is bad; green triangle is good. Colors and shapes are all interchangeable not to allow imprinting.

They tested 10-month-olds, then 8-month-olds and eventually 3-month-olds (who could only show preference with eye movements). And guess what? Babies mostly picked the good guys.

These experiments suggest that babies have a general appreciation of good and bad behavior, one that spans a range of interactions, including those that the babies most likely have never seen before.

Source: Nature. International weekly journal of science.

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