Babies `have innate sense of social justice`

Updated: Dec 02, 2011, 17:45 PM IST

London: Babies have a sound perception about social justice, it seems, for a study has found that infants as young as five months want to see bad behaviour punished and good conduct rewarded.

An international team, led by the University of British Columbia, claim that the perception between good and bad is not only learned, but is part of human make-up, according to the `Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences` journal.

For their study, researchers, led by Kiley Hamlin, along with colleagues from Yale University and Temple University, studied 100 babies in three age groups.

Five month olds, eight month olds and babies 19 months and older were monitored as they responded to how puppets treated and mistreated one another during a puppet show.

In one scene, an elephant helped a duck open a box, while another elephant slammed the lid shut. A moose puppet either rewarded or reprimanded the players by giving a ball to the elephants, or taking it away.

The babies were then offered the moose puppets that handed out the rewards and the punishments. Across the board, the babies preferred the moose puppet that mistreated the bad characters, the `Daily Mail` reported.

Hamlin said the research shows even at such early ages babies have developed senses of right and wrong, suggesting the sense of social justice is part of our make-up.

"Somehow between age five and eight months, the babies get this much more nuanced perception, the ability to interpret circumstances. It`s hard to argue that parents are teaching their children to punish at eight months.

"It`s a very complex idea. If they are learning it, they`re doing it on their own, suggesting that there is some kind of system for learning it," she was quoted by the British newspaper as saying.