Equal But Not Always Fair: Value-laden Sharing in Preschool-aged Children

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Abstract

Prior work has shown that preschoolers divide resources fairly and expect others to do the same. The majority of research, however, has focused on how children make distributions with respect to number. Here we explore whether preschoolers attend to the value of the objects being shared. We presented four-year-olds and five-year-olds with two puppets and four stickers of different values to split between them. Our central question was whether children would share more valuable stickers with their preferred puppets. In Experiments 1–2, value was induced by making one sticker rarer than the others. In Experiments 3–4, value was measured subjectively (by asking the child which sticker s/he personally preferred). Across all experiments, children made fair numerical splits, but showed favoritism according to value. This work supports the hypothesis that young children coordinate number and value to show both fairness and favoritism when making resource distributions.

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