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
Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh
Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences