Skip to content

Health & Baby

Babies a Good Judge of Character

Before 1st Birthday, Babies May Know Who Acts Naughty or Nice
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 21, 2007 -- Babies too young to talk may be old enough to tell who's helpful and who's not -- and to act on that knowledge.

So say researchers at Yale University's psychology department, including graduate student J. Kiley Hamlin.

"Our results suggest that infants, just like adults, are able to tell the difference between those who act positively vs. negatively toward others, and that they tend to approach those who act positively and to avoid those who act negatively," Hamlin tells WebMD via email.

Hamlin's team studied healthy, full-term babies aged 6 and 10 months.

The babies sat in their parents laps and watched a skit in which a red circle with big button eyes tried to climb a steep hill.

Along came a triangle with big beady eyes. Sometimes the triangle helped the circle climb the hill. Other times, the triangle pushed the circle down the hill.

Afterward, the babies had a chance to reach for the helpful triangle or the mean triangle.

Based on which object they reached for, the babies "robustly preferred" the helpful triangles over the mean triangles, write the researchers.

"We were impressed - but not necessarily surprised," says Hamlin.

"We feel that this is likely because being able to distinguish those who may help you from those who may harm you is so important for successful existence in a social world."

The findings appear in tomorrow's edition of Nature.

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

Today on WebMD

mother on phone holding baby
When you should call 911.
Mother with baby
Unexpected ways your life will change.
 
baby acne
What’s normal – and what’s not.
baby asleep on moms shoulder
Help your baby get the sleep he needs.
 

mother holding baby at night
ARTICLE
mother with sick child
QUIZ
 
baby with pacifier
VIDEO
Track Your Babys Vaccines
TOOL
 
Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
Slideshow
Woman holding feet up to camera
Article
 
Father kissing newborn baby
Article
baby gear slideshow
Slideshow