Biologists: Drive to Help Others 'Innate'

Hard-wired helpfulness separates us from chimps
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2009 1:21 AM CST
Biologists: Drive to Help Others 'Innate'
Even very young children have a seemingly innate urge to help others, researchers say.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – An inborn urge to be helpful may a key universal trait that makes us distinctively human, according to biologists. Experiments have found that babies just 12 months old are naturally helpful—pointing to help an adult find a lost item, for example—while chimpanzees aren't. The helpful instinct was found across all cultures, in children considered too young to fully comprehend social rules.

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Experts believe the hard-wired helpfulness and sociability comes from the earliest days of human society, when cooperation was essential to survival. The right approach to parenting, they say, helps tip the balance toward cooperation from equally innate urges to be selfish. "That’s why we have moral dilemmas, because we are both selfish and altruistic at the same time," one psychologist tells the New York Times. (Read more behavior stories.)

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