Altruistic Toddlers Do Exist
Continuing on with the thread of my July 6, 2005 posting here, there is an article in the March 3 2006 issue of Science titled "Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees" by Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello. The authors'abstract of their paper follows:
"Human beings routinely help others to achieve their goals, even when the helper receives no immediate benefit and the person helped is a stranger. Such altruistic behaviors (toward non-kin) are extremely rare evolutionarily, with some theorists even proposing that they are uniquely human. Here we show that human children as young as 18 months of age (prelinguistic or just-linguistic) quite readily help others to achieve their goals in a variety of different situations. This requires both an understanding of others' goals and an altruistic motivation to help. In addition, we demonstrate similar though less robust skills and motivations in three young chimpanzees."
These toddlers were able to discriminate when, as part of the test, an object was apparently accidentally vs intentionally dropped. They retrieved and returned the object if they recognized that the dropping was accidental.
It is good to see that research scientists are trying to explain the phenomenon of ethical behavior and expand ethics from philosophical discussions to science. ..Maurice.