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Egalitarianism in young children


Fehr, Ernst; Bernhard, Helen; Rockenbach, Bettina (2008). Egalitarianism in young children. Nature, 454(7208):1079-1083.

Abstract

Human social interaction is strongly shaped by other-regarding preferences. These preferences are key for a unique aspect of human sociality – large scale cooperation with genetic strangers – but little is known about their developmental roots. We show here that young children’s other-regarding preferences assume a particular form – inequality aversion – that develops strongly between the ages of 3 and 8. At age 3-4, the overwhelming majority of children behave selfishly, while the vast majority at age 7-8 prefers resource allocations that remove advantageous or disadvantageous inequality. Moreover, inequality aversion is strongly shaped by parochialism, a preference for favouring the members of one’s own social group. These results indicate that human egalitarianism and parochialism have deep developmental roots, and the simultaneous
emergence of altruistic sharing and parochialism during childhood is intriguing in view of recent evolutionary theories which predict that the same evolutionary process jointly drives both human altruism and parochialism.

Abstract

Human social interaction is strongly shaped by other-regarding preferences. These preferences are key for a unique aspect of human sociality – large scale cooperation with genetic strangers – but little is known about their developmental roots. We show here that young children’s other-regarding preferences assume a particular form – inequality aversion – that develops strongly between the ages of 3 and 8. At age 3-4, the overwhelming majority of children behave selfishly, while the vast majority at age 7-8 prefers resource allocations that remove advantageous or disadvantageous inequality. Moreover, inequality aversion is strongly shaped by parochialism, a preference for favouring the members of one’s own social group. These results indicate that human egalitarianism and parochialism have deep developmental roots, and the simultaneous
emergence of altruistic sharing and parochialism during childhood is intriguing in view of recent evolutionary theories which predict that the same evolutionary process jointly drives both human altruism and parochialism.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:28 August 2008
Deposited On:17 Nov 2008 16:07
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:28
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:0028-0836
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07155

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