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Do Infants Attribute Moral Traits? Fourteen-Month-Olds' Expectations of Fairness Are Affected by Agents' Antisocial Actions

Journal article
Authors L. Surian
M. Ueno
S. Itakura
Marek Meristo
Published in Frontiers in Psychology
Volume 9
ISSN 1664-1078
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01649
Keywords infants, fairness, distributive justice, moral development, moral judgment, preverbal infants, cognition, intention, behavior, Psychology
Subject categories Psychology

Abstract

We investigated whether and how infants link the domains of harm, help and fairness. Fourteen-month-old infants were familiarized with a character that either helped or hindered another agent's attempts to reach the top of a hill. Then, in the test phase they saw the helper or the hinderer carrying out an equal or an unequal distribution toward two identical recipients. Infants who saw the helper performing an unequal distribution looked longer than those who saw the helper performing an equal distribution, whereas infants who saw the hinderer performing an unequal distribution looked equally long than those who saw the hinderer performing an equal distribution. These results suggest that infants linked the hindering actions to a diminished propensity for distributive fairness. This provides support for theories that posit an early emerging ability to attribute moral traits to agents and to generate socio-moral evaluations of their actions. - Infants expect agents that previously helped another agent to perform egalitarian distributions, but they do not generate such expectation about agents that previously hindered another agent. - This ability to link hindering and distributive actions is important because it may help the development of reasoning about agents' stable moral traits. - Results provide support for recent theories on early social evaluation skills and they constraint theories on the acquisition of moral competence.

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