Development of conceptions of prosocial behavior: Information affecting rewards given for altruism and kindness

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Abstract

82 graduate students, 33 1st graders, and 31 5th graders were presented with information about situations in which one child either helped someone (kindness) or gave something to someone (altruism), with Ss allocating rewards for different actors. Younger children used an additive principle by allocating greater rewards for behavior that led to positive consequences for the actor or avoided negative consequences. Older children and adults utilized a discounting principle by allocating greater rewards for behavior that initially led to no reward or occurred under the threat of harm. Younger and older children allocated greater rewards for altruistic behavior following a previous obligation (facilitory obligation) to the recipient of the act, whereas adults allocated greater rewards for behavior toward a recipient who previously denied a favor to the actor (inhibitory obligation). Ss at all ages allocated greater rewards for actors whose previous behavior was consistently kind or altruistic (high consistency) or who were kind or altruistic to persons other than the recipient described in the stories (low distinctiveness). Results are discussed in terms of causal schemes underlying preconventional and conventional moral judgments and the use of covariation principles in inferences of causality. (17 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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