Events

How do humans come to have a “moral sense”? Are adults’ conceptions of which actions are right and which are wrong, of who is good and who is bad, who deserves praise and who deserves blame wholly the result of experiences like observing and interacting with others in one’s cultural environment and explicit teaching from parents, teachers, and religious leaders? Do all of the complexities in adult’s moral judgments reflect hard-won developmental change coupled with the emergence of advanced reasoning skills? This talk will explore evidence that, on the contrary, preverbal infants’ social preferences map surprisingly well onto adult moral intuitions. Within the first year of life, infants prefer those who help versus harm third parties, those who reward prosocial individuals and punish wrongdoers, and even privilege the intentions that drive actions over the outcomes they lead to. In the second year of life, toddlers direct their own helpful actions toward helpful individuals, and harmful actions toward harmful individuals. These results suggest that our adult moral sense is supported, at least in part, by innate mechanisms for sociomoral evaluation.