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Have you been bad or good? Baby knows

snowman.jpgIt seems that babies at a very young can already tell who’s being naughty and who’s being nice. Which is quite important at this time of the year, right?

Psychologists from Yale University tested six- to ten-month old babies by showing them film clips of two toys performing different activities. One toy performs good deeds and helps other toys up a hill. The other toy acts nasty and pushes other toys down instead. Then the babies were asked to choose which of the toys they’d prefer to play with 1,2.

Surprise! Surprise! Most of the babies preferred the Mr. Nice and completely ignored the pushing Bully. The babies also chose neutral toys over the naughty pusher. This preference was stronger in older babies than in the younger ones 1,2.

There’s no doubt about it. Babies know the difference between good and bad behavior. The question is ‘how?’ The researchers who performed the study believe this is a natural built-in social skill in all of us 1. Other experts believe that this is actually an ‘acquired skill’ which babies learn by observing the people around them 2.

Whatever it may be, don’t ever underestimate your child again and say ‘He/she doesn’t understand. He/she is only a baby!’ Oh yes, Baby does. More than you think.

1 Hamlin et al.,Social evaluation by preverbal infants. Nature 450, 557-559 (22 November 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06288.

2 Baby knows naughty from nice. Globe and Mail, 21 November 2007.


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