J. Kiley Hamlin

Canada Research Chair in Developmental Psychology

Tier 2 - 2017-11-01
Renewed: 2016-05-01
The University of British Columbia
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Coming to Canada From

Yale University, USA

Research involves

Examining how very young infants develop social and moral judgment.

Research relevance

This research will help improve knowledge about the foundations of moral judgment.

Do babies make moral judgments?

Where does morality come from? The answer used to be obvious: morality is the result of learning. Through teaching from parents, interactions with peers and observations of how others act, we learn which actions are right and which are wrong, who is good and who is bad, who deserves praise and who should be punished.

But while there is no doubt that experience plays a large role in moral development, the work of Dr. Kiley Hamlin, Canada Research Chair in Developmental Psychology, is showing that some aspects of morality, such as liking good guys and disliking bad guys, may be innate.

Hamlin is studying very young infants who arguably lack many of the experiences we may think are required for moral judgments. She presents infants with brief puppet interactions in which a character gets helped by a nice puppet and harmed by a mean puppet. After the show, infants choose between the nice and mean puppets and an overwhelming majority of them choose the good guy.

Through this and many other studies, Hamlin is exploring the earliest developmental emergence of human social and moral judgment. Her research may completely change the way we think about morality, both developmentally and in its adult form.