Young children are just as likely to respond to the needs of another individual as they are to their own
Toddlers have a reputation for being stubborn, selfish, and incapable of sharing. But researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany) and the University of Manchester (UK) have found that children as young as three actually will show a surprising level of concern for others and an intuitive sense of restorative justice.
Young children prefer to return lost items to their rightful owners, the studies show. If for some reason that is not an option, young children will still prevent a third party from taking what does not belong to them. What is more, both three- and five-year-old children are just as likely to respond to the needs of another individual—even when that individual is a puppet—as they are to their own. The findings in young children from Germany offer new insight into the nature of justice itself, the researchers say.
“The chief implication is that a concern for others—empathy, for example—is a core component of a sense of justice,” says Keith Jensen of the University of Manchester. “This sense of justice based on harm to victims is likely to be central to human prosociality as well as punishment, both of which form the basis of uniquely human cooperation.”
In human society, cooperation is often encouraged by punishing free-riders. However, earlier studies have shown that chimpanzees do not punish cheaters unless they themselves have been harmed directly. One way to understand the roots of justice in human society is to study the early emergence of the trait in young children. Studies have shown that children are more likely to share with a puppet that helped another individual than with one who behaved badly. They also prefer to see punishment delivered to a doll that deserves it than one that does not. By the age of six, children will pay a price to punish fictional and real peers. Preschoolers can also be encouraged with threats of punishment to behave more generously.
To find out what motivates a sense of justice in young children, Katrin Riedl along with Jensen and their colleagues gave three- and five-year-olds at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology the opportunity to take items away from a puppet that had “taken” them from another. Those children were as likely to intervene on behalf of a puppet “victim” as they were for themselves. When given a range of options, three-year-olds preferred to return an item than to remove it. “It appears that a sense of justice centered on harm caused to victims emerges early in childhood,” the researchers write.
The findings highlight the value of third-party interventions for human cooperation. They might also come in handy for parents and teachers of preschoolers. “The take-home message is that preschool children are sensitive to harm to others, and given a choice would rather restore things to help the victim than punish the perpetrator,” Jensen says. “Rather than punish children for wrong-doings or discuss the wrong-doings of others in punitive or perpetrator-focused ways, children might better understand harm done to the victim and restoration as the solution.”
Dr. Katrin Riedl
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 171 8510-810
Dr. Keith Jensen
University of Manchester
Phone: +44 740 1186-179
Press and Public Relations
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-122
Fax: +49 341 3550-119
Katrin Riedl, Keith Jensen, Josep Call, Michael Tomasello
Restorative Justice in Children
Current Biology, 18 June 2015, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.05.014
Dr. Katrin Riedl | Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Nerves control the body’s bacterial community
26.09.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Ageless ears? Elderly barn owls do not become hard of hearing
26.09.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg
Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
Graphene is up to the job
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
26.09.2017 | Life Sciences
26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.09.2017 | Information Technology