“Bad” Circles and “good” Triangles: Are Human Beings hard-wired for Altruism?

The morning of the last day of MAPP immersion week was once again hosted by Yale psychologist Paul Bloom. That day, he gave a brilliant lecture on (the development of) moral reasoning and corresponding research in that area. He argued that most research on the infamous trolley problem is seriously flawed – because all those thought experiments are typically carried out thinking about total strangers. Instead, he explained, our “moral sense” is necessarily awakened within close groups of acquaintances: our family and friends – our “tribe” – which in the end leads to completely different moral decisions.

What I found even more interesting is the question displayed the title of this blog post: Are we “moral blank slates” when coming into this world – or are children born with an innate preference to like “the Good”? In short: there is considerable empirical evidence that the latter may well be true. If you would like to find out, please watch this Youtube clip from the New York Times. It shows very cute (and insightful…) experiments carried out with six to twelve months old babies investigating – among other things – their ability to discriminate good and bad stuffed animals.

girl-suicide-bomber-300x231

Of course these experiments do not undoubtedly prove that all men are created (equally) good. But at least I´m pretty sure now we´re anything but hard-wired to become suicide bombers or the like. That is 100% nurture, not nature. Seeing pictures* like this almost breaks my heart…**

* This picture can be found on the internet numerous times. Unfortunately, I could not get hold of its original source. If you happen to know, please contact me.

** This is meant as an example only, I don´t intend to offend any Muslim people. Actually, one of our bridesmaids is Muslim. It´s just that this picture gives a perfect example of how men oftentimes corrupt their own children… :-/

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