Knowing what I should, doing what I want: From selfishness to inequity aversion in young children's sharing behavior

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Abstract

The social utility model suggests that people feel more satisfied with equal divisions of resources than from inequitable outcomes, even when the latter favors oneself. Research examining children's behavior has shown that the tendency to share half of one's endowment increases with age between the ages of 3 and 8. However, the satisfaction the children derive from their decisions (to share half of their endowments) has yet to be examined. I present two studies (using the dictator and ultimatum games) suggesting that young children (5-6. years old) are aware of the norms of fairness but choose to act selfishly and prefer not to share. Slightly older children aged 7-8 adopt these norms in their actual behavior but do not feel happier when they share half of their endowments than when they share less than half. Finally, true inequity aversion only appears at the ages of 9-10, when children not only give more, but they correspondingly also feel better when their endowments are equally divided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-236
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Volume33
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2012

Keywords

  • Altruism
  • Children
  • Decision making
  • Dictator Game
  • Equity
  • Moral development
  • Norms
  • Ultimatum Game

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