Infants’ moral expectations about authority figures
Date of Issue2017
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Existing literature suggests that infants are able to represent a dominance relationship and hold different expectations towards the actions of dominant and subordinate individuals. However, it remains unknown whether infants’ expectations of moral principles such as fairness and care would be moderated by the social statuses of individuals. The present research investigates infants’ expectations related to the moral actions of an authority figure towards her subordinate and vice versa. In a series of eye-tracking experiments, we tested whether young infants at 18- to 33-month-old expect the authority figure to behave fairly (Experiment 1), that the authority figure should be helpful rather than harmful towards subordinates (Experiment 2), and that subordinates should be helpful instead of harmful towards authority figure (Experiment 3). Results reveal that infants expect authority figures and subordinates to be differentially guided by the principle of fairness and the principle of care. Specifically, infants expect that (a) an authority figure should be fair and altruistic, (b) an authority figure should help and not harm subordinate, (c) subordinate should not harm an authority figure, but neither are they expected to help an authority figure.