Humans are good
Fundamentally speaking, are humans good or bad? It's a question that has repeatedly been asked throughout humanity. For thousands of years, philosophers have debated whether we have a basically good nature that is corrupted by society, or a basically bad nature that is kept in check by society. Psychology has uncovered some evidence which might give the old debate a twist.
One way of asking about our most fundamental characteristics is to look at babies. Babies' minds are a wonderful showcase for human nature. Babies are humans with the absolute minimum of cultural influence – they don't have many friends, have never been to school and haven't read any books. They can't even control their own bowels, let alone speak the language, so their minds are as close to innocent as a human mind can get.
The only problem is that the lack of language makes it tricky to gauge their opinions. Normally we ask people to take part in experiments, giving them instructions or asking them to answer questions, both of which require language. Babies may be cuter to work with, but they are not known for their obedience. What's a curious psychologist to do?
Fortunately, you don't necessarily have to speak to reveal your opinions. Babies will reach for things they want or like, and they will tend to look longer at things that surprise them. Ingenious experiments carried out at Yale University in the US used these measures to look at babies' minds. Their results suggest that even the youngest humans have a sense of right and wrong, and, furthermore, an instinct to prefer good over evil.
How could the experiments tell this? Imagine you are a baby. Since you have a short attention span, the experiment will be shorter and loads more fun than most psychology experiments. It was basically a kind of puppet show; the stage a scene featuring a bright green hill, and the puppets were cut-out shapes with stick on wobbly eyes; a triangle, a square and a circle, each in their own bright colours. What happened next was a short play, as one of the shapes tried to climb the hill, struggling up and falling back down again. Next, the other two shapes got involved, with either one helping the climber up the hill, by pushing up from behind, or the other hindering the climber, by pushing back from above.
Already something amazing, psychologically, is going on here. All humans are able to interpret the events in the play in terms of the story I’ve described. The puppets are just shapes. They don't make human sounds or display human emotions. They just move about, and yet everyone reads these movements as purposeful, and revealing of their characters. You can argue that this “mind reading”, even in infants, shows that it is part of our human nature to believe in other minds.
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I believe that people are basically good.
I think people are basically good because even if they are a serial killer, arsonist, burglar, whatever. They will watch over their family. Most of the time they will take care of them. If you say, well if they are good they shouldn't even be doing that, then I agree. But the thing is, people will learn from their mistakes. Or if they have a mental disease then they cannot see the world like we do. PTSD. ADHD. ADD. Any mental, disorder
People assume the worst.
People are good at heart. Children do not have the capacity to fathom killing. They could do it, yes, but murder is also partially a mental phenomenon. Murder is when a person calculates how they can end a life, premeditated and planned out. If a child kills another child, they know what they did, but most likely they do not understand what they've done, because if they did, the evil of it would drive them to insanity. A sane person is good at heart because of the often mistaken weaknesses trust and compassion, which are really strengths. They're the reason our species has survived. Compassion between people is a great thing. I can trust my neighbors not to burn down my house in the middle of the night, because I know they have compassion for my own life. People are good at heart, but distrust of others who have been wronged in life and make horrible choices or do horrible things cause people to simply distrust everyone because they wish to survive by instinct. In the end, if a person never encounters evil, how can they be evil when they don't even know what it is? A normal person would not commit mass homocide or genocide, that requires something to go wrong in their lifetime, or something mentally scarring by experience.
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