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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Monday, September 30, 2019

Connecting the dots on the origins of social knowledge

Arber Tasimi
in press, Perspectives on Psychological Science


Understanding what infants know about social life is a growing enterprise. Indeed, one of the most exciting developments within psychological science over the past decade is the view that infants may come equipped with knowledge about “good” and “bad,” and about “us” and “them.” At the heart of this view is a seminal set of studies indicating that infants prefer helpers to hinderers and similar to dissimilar others. What a growing number of researchers now believe is that these preferences may be based on innate (i.e., unlearned) social knowledge. Here I consider how decades of research in developmental psychology can lead to a different way to make sense of this popular body of work. As I make connections between old observations and new theorizing––and between classic findings and contemporary research––I consider how the same preferences that are thought to emanate from innate social knowledge may, instead, reflect social knowledge that infants can rapidly build as they pursue relationships with their caregivers.  I offer this perspective with hopes that it will inspire future work that supports or questions the ideas sketched out here and, by doing so, will broaden an understanding of the origins of social knowledge.

The paper is here.