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“By eight months, babies have developed nuanced views of reciprocity and can conduct these complex social evaluations” – evolutionary psychologist

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From “Babies Embrace Punishment Earlier Than Previously Thought, Study Suggests”
(ScienceDaily, Nov. 28, 2011), we learn,

Babies as young as eight months old prefer it when people who commit or condone antisocial acts are mistreated, a new study led by a University of British Columbia psychologist finds.

While previous research shows that babies uniformly prefer kind acts, the new study published Nov. 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that eight month-old infants support negative behavior if it is directed at those who act antisocially — and dislike those who are nice to bad guys.

“We find that, by eight months, babies have developed nuanced views of reciprocity and can conduct these complex social evaluations much earlier than previously thought,” says lead author Prof. Kiley Hamlin, UBC Dept of Psychology, who co-authored the study with colleagues from Yale University and Temple University.
“This study helps to answer questions that have puzzled evolutionary psychologists for decades,” says Hamlin. “Namely, how have we survived as intensely social creatures if our sociability makes us vulnerable to being cheated and exploited? These findings suggest that, from as early as eight months, we are watching for people who might put us in danger and prefer to see antisocial behavior regulated.”

What many people miss is the underlying assumption of the studies: The mind is an illusion; selfish genes think for you, to replicate themselves. So they are imagining into the child complex states of mind encoded by genes. Fortunately, these authors spell that out:

Hamlin says while such tendencies surely have many learned components, the fact that they are present so early in life suggests that they may be based in part on an innate foundation of liking those who give others their “just desserts.”

What clearly happened here was that the previous evo psych research claims weren’t all hanging together, and this new fix supposedly rescues them. If you believe any of it, that is. There is a long history of people doing studies showing that infants are far more cognitively developed than other studies are able to replicate, in the search for “innate” moral or religious behaviour.

See also: Steve Pinker actually thinks that most people believe evolutionary psychology but don’t see it as a force for good

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