Monthly Article Archives: January 2015

When Do Altruism and Kindness Begin in Our Lives?Robert Brooks, Ph.D.

An adult dropped a bowl in the presence of an 18-month-old. The toddler scurried across the room, picked up the bowl, handed it to the adult, and then walked away. This seemingly clumsy behavior of an adult is actually part of a series of studies undertaken by Felix Warneken, the Joy Foundation Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute and the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University. Warneken was interviewed about his research by Susan Seligson for an article “Overturning Assumptions about the Nature of Altruism” for the Radcliffe Magzine. Seligson describes an incident in Warneken’s life that might seem of little consequence to many people but had a significant impact on him. Warneken was intrigued as a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute in Germany by the question if helping behaviors might be innate and if children even under the age of two could display such behaviors. Would a toddler understand and offer help if someone needed it? Warneken reported that some of the senior faculty members doubted that toddlers would do so. Then one day while Warneken was involved in an unrelated study, he accidentally dropped a ball. A toddler in the room

Article Archive