Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Self-centered kids? Blame their immature brains

Date:
March 7, 2012
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
A new study suggests that age-associated improvements in the ability to consider the preferences of others are linked with maturation of a brain region involved in self control. The findings may help to explain why young children often struggle to control selfish impulses, even when they know better, and could impact educational strategies designed to promote successful social behavior.

Little boy eating last cookie. New findings may help to explain why young children often struggle to control selfish impulses, even when they know better.
Credit: Viktor Pravdica / Fotolia

A new study suggests that age-associated improvements in the ability to consider the preferences of others are linked with maturation of a brain region involved in self control. The findings, published by Cell Press in the March 8 issue of the journal Neuron, may help to explain why young children often struggle to control selfish impulses, even when they know better, and could impact educational strategies designed to promote successful social behavior.

Related Articles


Human social interactions often involve two parties who want to maximize their own outcomes while reaching a mutually satisfactory result. It is generally accepted that over the course of childhood behavior shifts from a more selfish focus to an increased tendency to consider the benefits to others. However, little is known about age-related changes in this type of "strategic social behavior" or the underlying neuronal mechanisms.

Researchers from the Max-Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig conducted behavioral and brain-imaging studies comparing children of different ages as they engaged in two carefully constructed games called "The Dictator Game" and "The Ultimatum Game." In the Dictator Game, children were asked to share a reward with another child who could only passively accept what was offered. In the Ultimatum Game, the recipient had to accept the offer or neither child received a reward. Therefore, the games differed in the demand for strategic behavior for the child making the offer.

"We were interested in whether children would share more fairly if their counterparts could reject their offers, and to what extent strategic behavior was dependent on age and brain development," explains lead study author, Dr. Nikolaus Steinbeis. "We observed an age-related increase in strategic decision making between ages 6 to 13 years and showed that changes in bargaining behavior were best accounted for by age-related differences in impulse-control abilities and underlying functional activity of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a late-maturing brain region linked with self control," explains Dr. Steinbeis.

The results suggest that egocentric behavior in children may not be a function of an inability to know "fair" from "unfair," but is instead due to an immature prefrontal cortex that does not support altruistic behavior when faced with a situation that has a strong self-serving incentive. "Our findings represent a critical advance in our understanding of the development of social behavior with far-reaching implications for educational policy and highlight the importance of helping children act on what they already know," concludes Dr. Steinbeis. "Such interventions could set the foundation for increased altruism in the future."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Nikolaus Steinbeis, Boris C. Bernhardt, Tania Singer. Impulse Control and Underlying Functions of the Left DLPFC Mediate Age-Related and Age-Independent Individual Differences in Strategic Social Behavior. 8 March 2012; 73(5) pp. 1040 - 1051, Neuron DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.12.027

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Self-centered kids? Blame their immature brains." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307132206.htm>.
Cell Press. (2012, March 7). Self-centered kids? Blame their immature brains. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307132206.htm
Cell Press. "Self-centered kids? Blame their immature brains." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307132206.htm (accessed February 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, February 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Newsy (Feb. 26, 2015) People who sleep more than eight hours per night are 45 percent more likely to have a stroke, according to a University of Cambridge study. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 25, 2015) Washington&apos;s mayor says the District of Columbia will move forward with marijuana legalization, despite pushback from Congress. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) A new study says marijuana is about 114 times less deadly than alcohol. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Replace Damaged Hands With Prostheses

Researchers Replace Damaged Hands With Prostheses

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) Scientists in Austria have been able to fit patients who&apos;ve lost the use of a hand with bionic prostheses the patients control with their minds. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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