Infants Want Bad Guys to Get It

Suggests the desire is a hardwired human trait
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Dec 2, 2011 9:13 AM CST
Babies 8 months old and older seem to want baddies punished.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Even at eight months old, we seem to have a desire to see evildoers punished. Researchers showed groups of babies a puppet routine in which one elephant puppet treated a duck puppet well, while another was mean to his puppet peer. In a later scene, a moose puppet rewarded the elephant for his behavior with a toy, or punished him by taking a toy away. The infants then chose their favorite moose.

The five-month-olds showed a preference for the moose who had been nice to everyone—even the elephants who’d behaved badly. But most babies eight months old and older liked the moose who punished the mean elephants, ABC News reports. “It’s hard to argue that parents are teaching their children to punish at eight months. It’s a very complex idea. If they are learning it, they’re doing it on their own, suggesting that there is some kind of system for learning it,” said a researcher. Click to watch videos of the puppet situations.

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