Naughty or Nice?

I came across a fascinating article the other day. The Yale University Infant Cognition team conducted a study that proves human beings prefer kindness over meanness. They created a roller-coaster-like contraption, and put a little wooden toy with human-like eyes on it to climb laboriously up the hills. As babies between 6 and 10 months old watched, other toys came along the track. Some helped the little wooden toy get to the top of the hill. Others got in front of the wooden toy and shoved it back down. Then they gave the babies their choice of toys to play with. Almost every one of them chose the toys that helped, and rejected the bullies. And when the researchers offered neutral toys, ones that neither helped nor hindered, the babies still preferred the ones that helped.

I loved the implication that the preference for kindness over meanness isn’t a learned behavior. We don’t have to be taught that it’s not nice to be mean. It’s something we’re born with, something we recognize before we learn the rules of right and wrong.

So then, if we have an innate ability to recognize kindness, and we choose to hang out with nice people, how come we don't choose to be nice to each other all the time? When we see someone struggling in life, why do we stand by and watch? Or worse, beat them down? Why don’t we jump in and lend a helping hand?

If only we could manage to remember the good sense we were born with.