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  • 10/11/2011

Fairness and altruism develop in infancy


University of Washington researchers have found that children develop a sense of fairness and altruism, or selflessness, earlier than previously thought.

Previous findings suggested that two-year-old kids develop altruism by showing affinity to help others while they display characteristics of fairness around age six or seven.

The new study, however, says babies pick up these complex social skills when they are as young as 15 months.

Scientists had 47 babies observe two different groups of videos either showing a researcher unevenly or equally distributing crackers or a pitcher of milk between two people.

Since babies usually stare longer at things that surprise them or challenge their expectations, scientists measured how much they paid attention to each of the scenarios.

On average, babies tended to look longer at videos showing unfair actions, a finding which suggests they were surprised and expected the food to be divided up equally.

”Our research shows that children become sensitized to the idea of fairness much earlier in life than previously thought. This concept of fairness also seems to influence an infant’s tendency to act altruistically when given the option to share with a stranger,”‌ said lead researcher Jessica Sommerville.

During the next stage of the study, while each baby was playing with two different toys, a researcher who was a stranger to the baby asked for one of the toys.

Two thirds of the infants offered to share their favorite toy. The interesting part was that about 92 percent of those who offered up their preferred toy, named "altruistic sharers", had also spent more time looking at the unfair distribution of food in the first part of the study.

On the other hand, 86 percent of "selfish sharers" who shared their least preferred toy had paid more attention when food was divided fairly, says the report published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Researchers concluded that fairness and altruism form much earlier in children than previous studies had showed. There is also a close relation between the developments of these two humanistic senses they added.

"This research shows scientifically, what we would intuitively think -- that a stronger sensitivity to fairness is linked with the ability to act altruistically," said Sommerville.

Source: presstv.ir

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