Are babies born moral?

Most people assume that young children learn right from wrong from their own parents or guardians. Many believe that babies are born with a blank slate and basically know nothing about good/evil or right/wrong until taught it. However, what if babies are born with morality? What if they already know good from bad?


This photo was taken from CNN and it displays one of the experiments conducted with the puppet show.

This photo was taken from CNN and it displays one of the experiments conducted dealing with the puppet show.


The null hypothesis will be that babies are born with a blank slate with no morality and the regular hypothesis will be that babies are born with a sense of morality. In this article online by the American Phycological Association it gave examples of different experiments tested upon babies. For one experiment, they created different scenarios with two puppets. With one scenario, the puppet helped the other up a hill and with the other the puppet knocked the other down the hill. After showing the puppet show to the 3-month old baby, the baby was more fond of the helpful puppet rather than the mean one. The baby showed that by gazing more at the helpful puppet. They even explained that the older the baby gets, the more “motor skills” it will have. So instead of just gazing, the baby would use his or her hands to point at the “good guy.” 

I began to think okay, babies probably know the difference between the “good guy,” and the “bad guy,” however, do babies help in certain situations? This journal article online created by Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology used an experiment to display how young children can be very helpful. Within the experiment, they placed the 2-year olds and their parents in a room and a random adult that came into the room had dropped objects like highlighters and paperclips. They wanted to observe and see if the child would help the adult retrieve these objects. In most cases, the 2-year olds DID help the adults “on their own,” without the parents telling them to do so. *Also, the experimentors stated that there was no difference within the experiment if the parents were present during the experiment or not.* This comes to show that most children strive to offer helping hand to most people.

Okay so we understand the fact that infants are amazing and they will help you and they are very down to earth characters. They can determine the good from the bad in different scenarios. It only gets better. In this article online it displayed an experiment conducted by Kiley Hamlin, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia. There was an experiment done with 32 toddlers ranging from 19 to 23 months and they were required to watch a puppet show with two different scenarios. The puppet show showed both a character being nice and one being mean. At the end, the toddlers were allowed to choose which puppet would get a prize and which puppet should get punished. In most cases, the toddler chose the mean puppet to get punished. According to the article, “13/16 gave a treat to the nice puppet and 14/16 took the treat away from the mean puppet.” 

Based on the information and research, the regular hypothesis, “Babies are born with a sense of morality,” was proven true. This also deals with the nature vs. nurture subject. Nature is when one is born with the trait and nurture is when one is taught the trait or learned it from someone (most of the time a parent). Based on the information, this subject is more natural and babies are born with a sense a goodness rather than just a plain blank slate.

Sources Below: 

Weir, Kirsten. “Not-so Blank Slates.” N.p., Apr. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2016. <>. 

Warneken, Felix, and Michael Tomasello. “Parental Presence and Encouragement Do Not Influence Helping in Young Children.” Wiley Library. N.p., 8 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2016. <>.

And, Kristen A. Dunfield. “Kristen A. Dunfield.” Intention-Mediated Selective Helping in Infancy. N.p., 01 Apr. 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

Pappas, Stephanie. “Even Babies Think Crime Deserves Punishment.” Live Science. N.p., 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2016. <>.

1 thought on “Are babies born moral?

  1. Emily Fiacco Tuite

    After reading your article I agree with you about babies being born with morality not a blank slate. I think that the experiment talking about the babies choosing which puppet should get the reward, and which one should get punished, is the best way to understand that babies have morality. Overall I thought that your blog post was interesting and thoughtful. Here is an article about babies and morality.

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