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Friday, March 30, 2018

Not Noble Savages After All: Limits to Early Altruism

Karen Wynn, Paul Bloom, Ashley Jordan, Julia Marshall, Mark Sheskin
Current Directions in Psychological Science 
Vol 27, Issue 1, pp. 3 - 8
First Published December 22, 2017

Abstract

Many scholars draw on evidence from evolutionary biology, behavioral economics, and infant research to argue that humans are “noble savages,” endowed with indiscriminate kindness. We believe this is mistaken. While there is evidence for an early-emerging moral sense—even infants recognize and favor instances of fairness and kindness among third parties—altruistic behaviors are selective from the start. Babies and young children favor people who have been kind to them in the past and favor familiar individuals over strangers. They hold strong biases for in-group over out-group members and for themselves over others, and indeed are more unequivocally selfish than older children and adults. Much of what is most impressive about adult morality arises not through inborn capacities but through a fraught developmental process that involves exposure to culture and the exercise of rationality.

The article is here.
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