Study: Babies Delight in the Suffering of Others

baby

Before my children were born, I held with Thomas Sowell's view that "Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late." Practical experience as a parent has only confirmed this view. Now a psychological study provides evidence that babies may look innocent, but aren't:

A University of B.C.-led psychology study found that infants as young as nine-months-old embrace those who pick on individuals who don’t share their preferences.

Study lead author Kiley Hamlin said the findings reveal that babies are constantly busy assessing their surroundings, trying to determine who their friends and enemies are. [...]

The youngsters were then shown a puppet show where the character demonstrated the same food preference as the baby. Another puppet demonstrated the opposite preference.

The puppets harmed, helped or acted neutrally towards the puppets with different or similar food preferences.

Results showed that the babies far preferred the puppets who harmed the puppet with the opposite food preferences to their own. One baby even planted a kiss on the puppet she liked. [...]

Hamlin said the findings suggest that babies feel something like schaudenfreude, a German term describing the pleasure experienced when someone you dislike or consider threatening experiences harm.

Link -via Dave Barry | Photo: Tom Check

See more about baby and kids at NeatoBambino

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At least for the United States, I suspect that the study would have been more widely accepted 25 years ago than today. America was a bit more Christianized back then and the idea that babies are wicked is Original Sin--a thoroughly orthodox idea.

Of course, there are often vast differences between popular and creedal theology.
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Interesting word choice, considering our cultural shift from a religious to an increasingly secular society. I wonder if such a study could have been done even 25 years ago, and what the public response would have been to the idea that babies have a mean streak?

Would the babies care if the person suffering was conscious or not?

http://boingboing.net/2013/03/07/very-bad-ways-to-wake-up.html#comment-823021311
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I saw a program on TV like that. Their interpretation was that the babies stared at the puppets they thought were doing something unacceptable, but preferred the kind puppets.
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