Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Babies Prefer Kind Behavior, Want Mean Behavior Punished: When Ph.Ds Play Puppeteer

Thanks, Prof Hamlin, University of British Columbia. 
Babies prefer kind people?

According to researcher Kiley Hamlin at the University of British Columbia babies pretty much dig people who help others.  They also want those who misbehave to get their just desserts.  Wow, sounds pretty incredible... Hamlin reports "by eight months, babies have developed nuanced views of reciprocity and can conduct these complex social evaluations much earlier than previously thought". (Science Daily, Babies Embrace Punishment Earlier Than Previously Thought, Study Suggests).


 Translation: Babies grab kind puppets more than mean ones.  

After watching animal puppets behaving like good citizens or bullies (i.e. taking away toys), the 8-month olds picked up the sweet one.  You know, the prosocial stuffed wildlife (i.e. moose, duck or elephant).  The one that helped the other nice puppet.  Goodness knows why we're not reading about findings from trials with Muppets or at least human mommy puppets.  Maybe those scared the bejesus out of the youngsters.  Or there were no differences between the good mommy and bad mommy puppets. 

Watch the video of the furry creatures if you have nothing better to do.  The production values make the infamous Baby Mozart look flawless.  Of course it also makes me wonder why the heck I ever left the university research lab where I could have re-purposed all the stuffed animals over the years. 

So folks, in brief all we know here is the wee ones grabbed the do-gooder forest denizen.  If that sounds like evidence of man's evolutionary preference for "antisocial behavior" to be "regulated" tonight I will be patient when my justice-seeking kindergartner tattles on his older sisters.  I mean, who am I to argue with hundreds of thousands of years of subtle genetic tweaks. 

What kind of dad was Charles Darwin anyhow?

Read it: J. K. Hamlin, K. Wynn, P. Bloom, N. Mahajan. How infants and toddlers react to antisocial others. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1110306108

2 comments:

TherExtras said...

Aw. Come on.

Was this really worth studying?

The methods reveal a certain level of madness, unrelated to survival of the fittest, I think.

Science Daily had a slow news day, seems.

No offense, Polly. Hoping your intent was exposing the ridiculous. Barbara

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

And to think someone got a grant for this puppetry (no offense to puppeteers, mind you).

If you haven't watched the video...don't. It's downhill from there. Can you imagine the stuffed duck in a screen capture in the academic journal? Do you think the peer reviewers actually watched the videos?

I think the first test of a good study should be that my friends and I can't replicate it in an afternoon in my basement.