I always thought of newborns as blank slates, not already born knowing right from wrong, but rather having to learn morals. The video, “Born good? Babies Help Unlock the Origins of Morality,” surprised me as I thought morality was primarily learned and one only develops a sense of right from wrong, from their caregivers, as one advances through life. As it appears, through statistical analysis, morality is not just something that one learns, but it is something that we are all born with and is enhanced by caregivers and society throughout one’s life.
When one is born, I think that our morals are set for physical survival, meaning one is already programmed to know that it is right to be selfish and egocentric for the sake of their own physical survival.
For example, Yale’s baby lab director psychologist Karen Winn, demonstrated through consistent teddy bear puppet shows that majority of infants tended to show a preference for nice, helpful over mean, unhelpful behaviors; However, when showing two puppet shows, adding one teddy bear being able to keep the ball for themselves, infants tended to view the ball thief as deserving punishment and thus choose it over the nice, helpful teddy bear instead.
After watching the studies in the video, I think that babies are born with an innate sense of morality, as they are wired to know what is best for them in order to survive. An infant already knowing what would favor one’s own gratification of survival and safety needs at the expense of others, plays a key role in survival of the fittest.
I think that certain adult moral values are reflected in the minds of children, rather being learned than born with.
For example, as a child advances through life they learn what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in society and tend to go from wanting everything for themselves to share with others; one is only born with survival instincts not understanding what is right from wrong in today’s society. The natural bias and selfishness that one is born with can be taught to be hidden from society as that is the socially acceptable way; However, an adult under stress may tend to regress to childhood instincts, such as selfishness, as a survival instinct. Adults at this stage would act by all means to get what they want or to satisfy their physiological and safety needs. The natural instincts we are born with never fully disappear, but are rather hidden as one has learned right from wrong via parental teachings; learning that they are unacceptable social behaviors. For example, in the video Yale’s psychologist Paul Bloom showed a series of experiments demonstrating that as children age, they tend to start sharing their tokens more and more with other children rather than taking only for themselves.
Younger children want more and don’t care about others, but as a child reaches 8 years, they start choosing the equal fair option more and more, and by 9 to 10 years of age they start giving other kids more tokens than to themselves; one becomes more generous as they are educated and enculturated and informed that this is the socially acceptable way within society. We have educated children to tamper the natural instincts that we are born with. Lawrence Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development explains that as one advances from childhood into adulthood, one progresses in their moral reasoning through a series of levels and stages, learning right from wrong. In our society, parenting styles vary and thus we are seen with a variety of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in children.
I think that parenting styles, whether its authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, neglectful, or indulgent, have a huge impact on a child’s development. A world without morality would be chaos. We have learned that behaviors such as telling lies and hurting people are wrong and behaviors such as respecting others and working hard are right. For example, if there were no traffic rules, transportation would be chaos. A social, civilized life would not be possible without morals and so therefore one must develop a sense of socially acceptable morals rather than the morals, as stated in the video, that one is born with. Based on Kohlberg’s theory, different cultures and communities have different moral standards and one will do what they think is right based on the beliefs they were taught from during infancy on.