Sep 25, 2018

Babies Show Signs of Altruism Earlier Than Scientists Ever Thought

Posted by in categories: futurism, neuroscience

Babies notice more than we think they do, and the things they notice can tell us a lot about the kind of people they’ll grow up to be. Previously, scientists determined that toddlers younger than two years old exhibit signs of altruism — selfless concern for the well-being of others — that in turn predicted what they’d be like in the future. Now, new research in the journal PLOS Biology suggests that these signs emerge even earlier than we thought. The way a baby acts before it even turns one year old can reliably predict whether it will display altruistic behavior by the time it’s 14 months old.

Research in this field is an attempt to understand whether it’s really in our nature to be altruistic, and why. Acting selflessly, after all, is not immediately beneficial, at least from a purely evolutionary standpoint. And yet even our non-human primate relatives will sacrifice themselves for their neighbors, leading to the understanding that the behavior is somehow conserved.

In the new paper, published Tuesday, a team of psychologists and cognitive scientists show that a 7-month-old baby that pays close attention to the face of someone who is afraid is more likely to display prosocial behavior by the time they’re 14 months old.

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