Christianity argues that kids are born with “Original Sin,” an impulse that has to be knocked out of them to become functional and morally responsible adults. Well, science is again at odds with religion, because a new study published in Current Biology argues that kids are acutely aware of justice and try to do the right thing.

In an experiment that sounds like a segment from Jimmy Kimmel Live, researchers set up kids at a table with cookie-stealing-puppets. Medical Xpress explains:

In some of the experiments a puppet would ‘steal’ a cookie from another puppet or the child by turning the table to place the treat in front of herself. The child had the ability to turn the table back or put the cookie in a section where it was inaccessible, which, in the case of theft, served as a punishment.

In a demonstration of concern for others, the children largely returned the cookie to the victim, whether it was themselves or the wronged puppet. If they could return the cookie to its owner rather than put it somewhere inaccessible to the thief, they preferred to do this as well.

The conclusion, according to Dr. Keith Jensen of The University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences, is that “it does seem to indicate that pre-school children act out of concern for the welfare of a victim.”

We’ve not seen this behaviour in children this young before,” he explained. “At the preschool age, children have a sense of justice based on sensitivity to harm. They might be sensitive to third-party violations and will punish these, but younger children, at least, are less concerned about the perpetrator. From this early, prosocial sense of justice, third-party punishment – which is the enforcer that stabilises cooperation – emerges.”

(Image: MPI EVA)