Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Babies know what's fair

Date:
February 18, 2012
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
"That's not fair!" It's a common playground complaint. But how early do children acquire this sense of fairness? Before they're 2, says a new study. "We found that 19- and 21-month-old infants have a general expectation of fairness, and they can apply it appropriately to different situations," says a psychology graduate student.

"That's not fair!" It's a common playground complaint. But how early do children acquire this sense of fairness? Before they're 2, says a new study.
Credit: © nyul / Fotolia

"That's not fair!" It's a common playground complaint. But how early do children acquire this sense of fairness? Before they're 2, says a new study. "We found that 19- and 21-month-old infants have a general expectation of fairness, and they can apply it appropriately to different situations," says University of Illinois psychology graduate student Stephanie Sloane, who conducted the study with UI's Renιe Baillargeon and David Premack of the University of Pennsylvania.

The findings appear in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science.

In each of two experiments, babies watched live scenarios unfold. In the first, 19-month-olds saw two giraffe puppets dance around at the back of a stage. An experimenter arrived with two toys on a tray and said, "I have toys!" "Yay!" said the giraffes. Then the experimenter gave one toy to each giraffe or both to one of them. The infants were timed gazing at the scene until they lost interest. Longer looking times indicated that something was odd -- unexpected -- to the baby. In this experiment, three-quarters of the infants looked longer when one giraffe got both toys.

In the second experiment, two women faced each other with a pile of small toys between them and an empty plastic box in front of each of them. An experimenter said, "Wow! Look at all these toys. It's time to clean them up." In one scenario, one woman dutifully put the toys away, while the other kept playing -- but the experimenter gave a reward to both the worker and the slacker. In another scenario, both women put the toys away and both got a reward. The observing 21-month-old infants looked reliably longer when the worker and the slacker were rewarded equally.

"We think children are born with a skeleton of general expectations about fairness," explains Sloane, "and these principles and concepts get shaped in different ways depending on the culture and the environment they're brought up in." Some cultures value sharing more than others, but the ideas that resources should be equally distributed and rewards allocated according to effort are innate and universal.

Other survival instincts can intervene. Self-interest is one, as is loyalty to the in-group -- your family, your tribe, your team. It's much harder to abide by that abstract sense of fairness when you want all the cookies -- or your team is hungry. That's why children need reminders to share and practice in the discipline of doing the right thing in spite of their desires.

Still, says Sloane, "helping children behave more morally may not be as hard as it would be if they didn't have that skeleton of expectations."

This innate moral sense might also explain the power of early trauma, Sloane says. Aside from fairness, research has shown that small children expect people not to harm others and to help others in distress. "If they witness events that violate those expectations in extreme ways, it could explain why these events have such negative and enduring consequences."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Sloane, R. Baillargeon, D. Premack. Do Infants Have a Sense of Fairness? Psychological Science, 2012; 23 (2): 196 DOI: 10.1177/0956797611422072

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Babies know what's fair." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120218134639.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2012, February 18). Babies know what's fair. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120218134639.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Babies know what's fair." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120218134639.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) — New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) — Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) — A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins