Do Babies Have an Innate Sense of Right and Wrong?

Rhondda Hartman
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Rhondda Hartman

Natural Childbirth Expert, Author, Exercise & How-To Advice and Information - over 14,000 moms taught to have successful unmedicated births with joy.
Rhondda Hartman
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Smiling Baby BoyCan a baby of 3 months make a distinction between Good and Bad?

A book review from The Washington Post by Sara Sklaroff and republished in The Denver Post on January 5, 2014 has caused a reaction in me that will resonate with all parents, I believe. The book is Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evilby Paul Bloom, published by Crown. I knew I had to read this book as the ideas in the review are fascinating, and I love the definition of a baby!

To quote the reviewer, Sara Sklaroff, “They live among us, posing as humans when they are in fact more like mythical creatures: mysterious and powerful, extraordinary to gaze upon, and possessing near-magical abilities to incapacitate otherwise fully functioning adults. They grow at an alarming rate, often feeding on other people. Their scent is by turns intoxicating and foul. They can be demanding, impatient, fickle and ridiculous. They are also very, very cute. I am writing of course about babies.”

She goes on to state “… developmental Psychologist Paul Bloom … believes that morality can be discerned in even the youngest children. And he and other researchers have devised some clever experiments to prove it.”

With these quotes from a book review, can you see why we mothers of the world will be drawn into controversy over this intriguing theory about the innate morality of the human baby? Dr. Paul Bloom is a Professor of Psychology at Yale University and is a well-respected researcher and author of several books and articles. I quickly ordered the book on my Kindle. This book does read pretty much like an interesting text book for a psychology class.

The disconnect for me regarding the research is that first, you must accept his definition of morality. And second, you must accept the research design which he uses to prove this innate morality. Proving a newborn’s likes and dislikes is not easy!

As a nurse/psychologist/sociologist, I find the book interesting, but the thesis is not as clear as the title of the book would indicate.

As a mother, I find myself unsure of his experiments and results, but it is very thought provoking.

The wonderful discovery I found in this book is that he does not assume that babies are born with an empty brain which gets a “download” from the environment. This was a common understanding in the 70’s when I was studying for a Masters Degree. I knew it was not so even then because I was already a mother.

As a mother you will be aware of the likes and dislikes of your very young baby. You will be acutely sure of the fears and joys of your tiny one! They give you all sorts of clues. Be sure to watch for them and trust them.

Perhaps they do, in fact, have an innate sense of right and wrong.


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