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Origins of Moral Psychology

Are there innate drivers of morality?

innate = not learnt
This is a little vague. Suppose, hypothetically, that some motor abilities are innate and contribute to moral development ...
Of what? This must be interpreted as some kind of moral ability
SO the question stands in need of interpretation. And the best way to interpret it is to start from the evidence and work backwards. Is there a way to interpret the question that makes it both interesting and well supported?

Key source: Hamlin, 2013. ‘Moral Judgment and Action in Preverbal Infants and Toddlers’.

Method: consider responses of preverbal infants.

moral sense vs moral judgement

So far nearly all the research we considered was about moral judgement in one way or another.
Practically, this won’t work when we’re considering preverbal infants.
\emph{moral sense}: a ‘tendency to see certain actions and individuals as right, good, and deserving of reward, and others as wrong, bad, and deserving of punishment’ \citep[p.~186]{hamlin:2013_moral}.

Moral abilities---including a moral sense---evolved to aid group living, specificially to motivate and sustain cooperative action.

Three requirements

- prosociality (helpfulness towards others)

- discrimination between pro- and anti-social acts

- retribution

adapted from Hamlin, 2013

Warneken & Tomasello, 2006 supplementary materials

Subjects: 18 month olds

Warneken & Tomasello, 2006 figure 1

‘For each task, there was a corresponding control task in which the same basic situation was present but with no indication that this was a problem for the adult (14). This ensured that the infant’s motivation was not just to reinstate the original situation or to have the adult repeat the action, but rather to actually help the adult with his problem.
caption: ‘Mean percentage of target behaviors as a function of task and condition. In tasks with multiple trials, the mean percentage of trials with target behavior per total number of trials was computed for each individual. Independent-sample t tests (df 0 22) revealed significant differences between conditions for the tasks Paperball (t 0 4.30, P G 0.001), Marker (t 0 2.70, P G 0.05), Clothespin (t 0 4.38, P G 0.001), Books (t 0 2.33, P G 0.05), and Cabinet (t 0 3.08, P G 0.01). For the Flap task with only one trial per individual, we computed Fisher’s exact test (N 0 24, P G 0.05). In these six tasks, children performed the target behavior significantly more often in the experimental than in the control condition. No difference between conditions was found for the tasks Clips (t 0 1.04, P 0 0.31), Cap, Chair, and Tool, Fisher’s exact tests (N 0 24), P 0 1.0, 0.48, and 0.22, respectively. Error bars represent SE; *P G 0.05.’

Moral abilities---including a moral sense---evolved to aid group living, specificially to motivate and sustain cooperative action.

Three requirements

- prosociality (helpfulness towards others)

- discrimination between pro- and anti-social acts

- retribution

adapted from Hamlin, 2013

These studies also imply discrimination; importantly, discrimination can be tested independently of retribution, as we will see.
key sources for the rest of this unit: \citep{hamlin:2011_how,hamlin:2014_contextdependent}.

Hamlin et al, 2011 supplementary materials

prosocial helping elephant

Hamlin et al, 2011 supplementary materials

antisocial harming elephant elephant

Earlier research: Infants prefer to reach for good elephant.

Moral abilities---including a moral sense---evolved to aid group living, specificially to motivate and sustain cooperative action.

Three requirements

- prosociality (helpfulness towards others)

- discrimination between pro- and anti-social acts

- retribution

adapted from Hamlin, 2013

Will look at studies on this (because most revealing)

Earlier research: Infants prefer to reach for good elephant.

Now: infants see the good [/bad] elephant being treated pro and anti-socially ...

Hamlin et al, 2011 supplementary materials

Hamlin et al, 2011 supplementary materials

prosocial helping moose

Hamlin et al, 2011 supplementary materials

antisocial harming elephant moose

How infants feel about the two moose?

Hamlin et al, 2011 figure 1 (part)

‘Our 5-mo-old subjects preferred an individual who acted positively toward another regardless of the target’s previous behavior, suggesting that they apprehended the local valence of the action witnessed but did not compute its global valence in the broader context.’
‘our 8-mo-old infants assessed the global value of an action–their patterns of choice suggest that, in particular, they viewed a locally negative action as bad when directed toward a prosocial individual, but good when directed toward an antisocial individual’

Toddlers: giving a treat

‘19- to 23- mo-olds in experiment 4 first played a warm-up game in which they were trained to give “treats” (small foam blocks) to several stuffed animals by placing a treat into each animal’s bowl.’
‘Participants were then randomly assigned to a Giving a Treat condition or a Taking a Treat condition’
‘Subjects in the Giving-a-Treat condition were told that there was “only one treat left” and that they needed to choose which of the two puppets to give it to; they were then given the treat to distribute to the recipient of their choice. Subjects in the Taking-a-Treat condition were shown a new animal “who didn’t get a treat” and asked to take a treat away from either the Prosocial or Antisocial puppet (their choice) so that this animal could have one.’

Hamlin et al, 2011 figure 2 (part)

‘Our toddlers were willing to approach (rather than avoid) individuals who had behaved antisocially, overcoming their aversion to antisocial others (4–6, 42) to direct a negative behavior toward them.’

‘infants are making relatively complex and sophisticated social judgments in the first year of life. They not only evaluate others based on the local valence of their behavior, they are also sensitive to the global context in which these behaviors occur. During the second year, young toddlers direct their own valenced acts toward appropriate targets.’

\citep[p.~19933]{hamlin:2011_how}

Hamlin et al, 2011 p. 19933

Are there innate preverbal drivers of morality?

Issue was whether we can interpret the question in a way that makes it both interesting and one that existing evidence bears on.

‘developmental research supports the claim that at least some aspects of human morality are innate. From extremely early in life, human infants show morally relevant motivations and evaluations—ones that are mentalistic, are nuanced, and do not appear to stem from socialization or morally specific experience’

\citep[p.~191]{hamlin:2013_moral}.

Hamlin, 2013 p. 191

innate = not learnt
The quote provides a clear interpretation of the question. Do you think the evidence supports the claim?
\subsection{Poverty of stimulus arguments}
The best argument for innateness is the poverty of stimulus argument.
We need to step back and understand how poverty of stimulus arguments work.
Here I'm following \citet{pullum:2002_empirical}, but I'm simplifying their presentation.
How do poverty of stimulus arguments work? See \citet{pullum:2002_empirical}.
First think of them in schematic terms ...

Poverty of stimulus argument

    \begin{enumerate}
  1. \item
    Human infants acquire X.
  2. \item
    To acquire X by data-driven learning you'd need this Crucial Evidence.
  3. \item
    But infants lack this Crucial Evidence for X.
  4. \item
    So human infants do not acquire X by data-driven learning.
  5. \item
    But all acquisition is either data-driven or innately-primed learning.
  6. \item
    So human infants acquire X by innately-primed learning .
  7. \end{enumerate}

compare Pullum & Scholz 2002, p. 18

This is a good structure; you can use it in all sorts of cases, including the one about chicks' object permanence.
Now fill in the details ...
In our case, X is knowledge of the syntactic structure of noun phrases. (Caution: this is a simplification; see\citet[p,\ 158]{lidz:2004_reaffirming}).)
This is what the Lidz et al experiment showed.
Note that no one takes this to be evidence for innateness by itself.
What is the crucial evidence infants would need to learn the syntactic structure of noun phrases?
This is actually really hard to determine, and an on-going source of debate I think.
But roughly speaking it's utterances where the structure matters for the meaning, utterances like 'You play with this red ball and I'll play with that one'.
\citet{lidz:2003_what} establish this by analysing a large corpus (collection) of conversation involving infants.
What can we infer about innateness from this argument?
First, think about what is innate. The fact that knowledge of X is acquired other than by data-driven learning doesn't mean that X is not innate; it just means that something which enables you to learn this is.
Second, think about the function assigned to innateness. That which is innate is supposed to stand in for having the crucial evidence.
This, I think, is the key to thinking about what we *ought* to mean by innateness.
So attributes like being genetically specified are extraneous---they may be typical features of innate things, but they aren't central to the notion.
By contrast, that what is innate is not learned must be constitutive (otherwise that which is innate couldn't stand in for having the crucial evidence)
Contrary to what many philosophers (including Stich and Fodor) will tell you ...

‘the APS [argument from the poverty of stimulus] still awaits even a single good supporting example’

Pullum & Scholz 2002, p. 47

\citep[p.\ 47]{pullum:2002_empirical}
But they wrote this before \citet{lidz:2003_what} came out.

Are there innate preverbal drivers of morality?

‘developmental research supports the claim that at least some aspects of human morality are innate. From extremely early in life, human infants show morally relevant motivations and evaluations—ones that are mentalistic, are nuanced, and do not appear to stem from socialization or morally specific experience’

\citep[p.~191]{hamlin:2013_moral}.

Hamlin, 2013 p. 191