Infants’ Evaluation of Prosocial and Antisocial Agents: A Meta-Analysis

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Over the past decade, numerous studies have reported that infants prefer prosocial agents (those who provide help, comfort, or fairness in distributive actions) to antisocial agents (those who harm others or distribute goods unfairly). We meta-analyzed the results of published and unpublished studies on infants aged 4–32 months and estimated that approximately two infants out of three, when given a choice between a prosocial and an antisocial agent, choose the former. This preference was not significantly affected by age or other factors, such as the type of dependent variable (selective reaching or helping) or the modality of stimulus presentation (cartoons or real events). Effect size was affected by the type of familiarization events: giving/taking actions increased its magnitude compared with helping/hindering actions. There was evidence of a publication bias, suggesting that the effect size in published studies is likely to be inflated. Also, the distribution of children who chose the prosocial agent in experiments with N = 16 suggested a file-drawer problem.

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