Share and share alike? New research shows equal sharing comes with age

March 21st, 2013

New research from Peter Blake, assistant professor of psychology, has found that children as young as three understand the concept of being fair when it comes to sharing, but don’t show the behavior until ages 7 or 8. The paper, which appears in PLoS ONE, found that while young children can comprehend fairness, they often favor themselves when given the chance to share items.

In the study, children were given stickers to share with others. In one group, children ages 3 – 8 stated that they should share the stickers equally, asserted that others should as well, and predicted that others had shared equally with them. Nevertheless, children failed to engage in equal sharing until age 7 or 8. In another group, 7–8-year-olds correctly predicted that they would share equally, and 3–6-year-olds correctly predicted that they would favor themselves, ruling out a failure-of-willpower explanation for younger children’s behavior. The data suggest that, although 3-year-olds know the norm of equal sharing, the weight that children attach to this norm increases with age.

For more about the study, read The Boston Globe’s coverage.

Contact Blake at 617-358-6024 or

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