Contrary to the Freudian theory that humans start their lives with a moral 'blank slate', children may be born with the ability to tell good from bad, according to a new research.
Newly born babies apparently start making moral judgments by the time they are six months old, claims a team of psychologists at the infant cognition centre at Yale University in Connecticut.
AdvertisementThe scientists used the ability to tell helpful from unhelpful behaviour as an indication of moral judgment.
As part of the study, they conducted multiple tests on infants, less than a year old.
Firstly, an animated film of simple geometric shapes was screened for the kids to watch.
It showed a red ball, with eyes, trying to climb a hill. A yellow square helped, pushing it up, while a green triangle forced it back down.
Later, the children were asked to "choose" between the "good guy" square, and the "bad guy" triangle.
In 80 percent of cases the infants chose the square over the triangle.
In a second study, the children were shown a toy dog trying to open a box.
One teddy bear helped him, while another sat on it to stop him getting inside.
The observers found that most babies opted for the friendly bear.
To further confirm that the babies were responding to niceness and naughtiness the scientists devised another test.
A toy cat played with a ball while a cuddly rabbit puppet stood on either side. When the cat lost the ball, the rabbit on the right side returned it to him, while the rabbit on the left side picked it up and ran away with it.
The children were asked to handle anyone one puppet. Most picked the naughty rabbit and smacked it on the head.
Paul Bloom, professor of psychology who heads the study team, said the research counters theories of psychologists such as Sigmund Freud who believed humans began life as "amoral animals" and William James who described a baby's mental life as "one great, blooming, buzzing confusion".
"There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the idea that perhaps some sense of good and evil is bred in the bone," The Times quoted Bloom as saying.