Research Studies on Social Constructs of Infants
The purpose of the research study conducted by Hamlin, Wynn, and Bloom was to explore the ontogenetic origins of the capabilities of human beings to evaluate other individuals. Exploring the matter is of great importance due to the significance being placed on the need for man to be able to “assess the actions and intentions of the people around them, and make accurate decision about who is friend and who is foe, who is an appropriate social partner and who is not.” The premise in which the research study was founded on were the assumptions regarding the impact of the study to morality and the view that the ability to evaluate or assess other people may be traced to biological constructs.
The research study was conducted utilizing infants who are six to ten months of age, considering infants at this particular age are not able to verbally communicate. The researchers designed two methodologies to commence the practical research process of exploring social interaction exhibited by infants toward other individuals. The researchers also applied two paradigms from which the design of the experimental procedures were based on to obtain significant results for the purpose of validating the hypotheses and arrive at a reliable conclusion. The first paradigm is the choice paradigm which seeks to determine how children make decisions based on their actions or behavior. The second paradigm is the expectation paradigm wherein the expectations of infants were quantified based on the frequency of times they anticipate unexpected events.
To obtain quantifiable information that will be the basis of significant interpretations, the researchers conducted a series of three experiments. The first experiment proved how infants are able to judge or evaluate other people despite their ability to communicate based on what they observe as exhibited actions and behaviors from other people. In the experiment, the behavior of the infants showed how their preferences extended to helpful individuals and not to those who hinder other people. The succeeding two experiments proved that infants choose helpful individuals than neutral individuals, and that they are more likely to choose neutral individuals as compared to individuals who hinder other people. These results were based on the looking time of infants to specific events that showed helpful, neutral, and hindering actions or behaviors.
The key findings obtained by the researchers led to the conclusion that social judgments and evaluation by infants are influenced by their observations of how individuals act or behave towards other people. Infants are able to recognize desirable behavior, specifically helpfulness, and attribute their preferences towards individuals who display this particular behavior. On the other hand, infants are also able to associate negativity to actions or behaviors, specifically being a hindrance to other people. Moreover, this particular ability of infants to socially evaluate other people is not influenced by social attachments but by mere innate judgments of actions and behaviors exhibited by individuals. The implications of this research study determines that social evaluation or judgment is something biological and that infants are able to display social judgments according to their observations and moral constructs.
Although this research study has revealed significant findings in validating if the ability to socially judge or evaluate other people is innate based on a series of studies experiments conducted by the researchers, it failed to strengthen its claim that infants tend to look at things or other people that are surprising. I believe that there is an uncertainty in the validity of this phenomenon since there are factors affecting behavior towards events. One may not be sure that infants look at things or people longer due to surprise because it might be an expression of amusement, attraction, or liking. In addition, the research study failed to consider including infants at younger ages in order to fully conclude the innateness or ontogenetic origins of social abilities to judge or evaluate other people. On the other hand, the strengths of the research study were the designs of the methods utilized to initiate the succession of three experiments. Another strength was its ability to lend itself to further research studies and its integration to other concepts or theories, such as moral cognition, in order to expand the study and obtain comprehensive and more reliable and valid information about moral cognition and its ontogenetic origins.
The New York Times reviewed this particular research study and has discussed it by citing what it believes to be the major findings. According to the New York Times, the major finding of the research study was that human beings, even at a young age, “are assessing those around them.” The New York Times has also simplified the three succeeding experiments conducting during the research study recounting how infants were observed recording their preferences based on actions and behaviors displayed by figures. Like the New York Times, MSNBC also reviewed the research study in one of the network’s online articles. According to MSNBC, the research study has revealed that infants are able to determine the good people from bad people, and are more likely to display their approval or preferences toward people who display desirable behavior. Moreover, the research study has proved that the social ability to judge or evaluate the character of other people is biological in nature. MSNBC explored the matter deeper by citing other research studies conducted in the past and by gaining commentaries from other professionals who are knowledgeable about the issues involved in moral cognition and social abilities exhibited by human beings as early as infancy.
In comparing the reports from The New York Times and MSNBC with the original transcript of the research study, one will notice how the first news article from The New York Times lacked a comprehensive discussion on the matter while the second article from MSNBC was able to support the findings from the research study by citing other research studies conducted in the past and presenting a counter-argument towards the research study in order to present an even-handed report. However, The New York Times and MSNBC were able to present a simple account of the three experiments conducted by the researchers in order to allow its readers to clearly understand how the results were obtained. Although the research study is open to other inquiries and discussions, the results were substantial enough, primarily due to the design of the experiments conducted, to present a clear argument that the social ability to judge other people is innate or biological.
The Associated Press. (2007). “Even Babies Judge Their Companions.” Retrieved from
MSNBC. 31 Jan. 2008. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21917458/print/1/displaymode/1098/>
Hamlin, J. Kiley, et. al. (2007). “Social Evaluation by Preverbal Infants.” NATURE, Vol. 450, pp. 557-560.
Nagourney, Eric. (2007). “Behavior: Even Babies May Be Good Judges of Character.” Retrieved from The New York Times. 31 Jan. 2008. <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/04/health/research/04beha.html?_r=1…>