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Title:Early reasoning about moral obligations and rights
Author(s):Tranggono Ting, Fransisca
Director of Research:Baillargeon, Renée
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Baillargeon, Renée
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hyde, Daniel C; Pomerantz, Eva M; Cohen, Dov; Stern, Chadly D
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Moral Development
Social Cognition
Infant Cognition
Abstract:Recent studies suggest that infants have the ability to reason about how individuals should act toward others, and that this early moral reasoning is guided by at least four moral principles: fairness, harm avoidance, ingroup support and authority. For example, infants expect an individual to divide windfall resources equally between similar recipients (e.g., Buyukozer-Dawkins, et al., 2019) and to provide help to an ingroup member in need (helping or ignoring an outgroup member in need are both viewed as acceptable; e.g., Jin & Baillargeon, 2017). Here, I built on these and related findings and in 7 experiments, I addressed two major questions. First, is it the case that early moral expectations are normative in nature and carry a sense of obligation? Second, whom do infants perceive as having moral rights? In Experiments 1-3, 18-month-old infants showed a preference for a character who helped an outgroup (and thus performed a supererogatory action she was not obligated to do) over a character who helped an ingroup (and thus performed an action she was obligated to do). These results provide support for the idea that early moral expectations are not mere reflections of learned behavioral regularities; rather, they are prescriptive in nature, outlining what an individual should do in a particular situation. In Experiments 4-7, we found that infants expect only novel animates (entities that are both self-propelled and agentive) to be treated fairly; they do not extend this expectation to entities that are only self-propelled or only agentive. Furthermore, infants perceive humans (animates) as having reduced moral rights if they display defective animacy cues, such as behaving in an irrational manner. Together, these findings indicate that early human moral cognition is remarkably sophisticated and provides a rich foundation for infants’ adaptation to their social worlds.
Issue Date:2020-12-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Fransisca Tranggono Ting
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-03-05
Date Deposited:2020-12

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