By better understanding the morality of children and even infants we learn about that aspect of morality which is innate and not learned. This research can also help to answer the important philosophical question of whether human beings are born moral or whether they must learn to be moral. Studies and research have shown that children are very interested in the concept of fairness, and this plays a great role in their morality, but the recent study regarding the morality babies raises new and interesting questions. In the video we see the return of the babies in the study that showed their preference for the mean or the fair stuffed dog, and after all of this time the babies continue to show a preference for the fair dog. These babies also showed a preference for mean dogs that harmed those who were unlike them.
While we have been questioning whether people are born moral or born self-interested we may have missed an important aspect of this puzzle. Our interest in morality is focused on others, and our interest in fairness may be self-serving. It is disturbing that the study concluded that while we are deeply interested in fairness at a very young age, we also have deeply held prejudices against those who are different, and these go so far as to cause a preference for causing harm. On one hand this appears to explain the causation of much of the history of wars and violence, but on the other it creates a real challenge for a peaceful and fair world.

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We still can’t answer the question of whether we are born moral or self-interested, but clearly we have an interest in the fairness of others and this is very strong when children are young, before they have had a chance to learn the morals and norms of their culture.

  • CBS News. (2013). Born good? Babies help unlock the origins of morality. Retrieved from: