The Fairness of Children-Tom

The article I am going to talk about this week is titled Development of in-group favoritism in children’s third-party punishment of selfishness. The study was mainly focused on how children would punish unfairness and how that would change based on ingroup and outgroup preferences.

This study used an interesting variation on the ultimatum game. The participants in the study were children, either six or eight years old. They would watch an actor decide how to split the candy between himself and a third person, the receiver. The participant had just one decision, let the candy be given as the actor had decided or to punish unfairness. The way the candy was split did not affect the participant, yet it would still affect their choice to approve or punish. This setup was interesting to me, since it made the participant much more passive, possibly making it easier to simulate a live scenario. As you might think, the participants “enforced fairness norms by punishing selfishness more than fairness.” However, an intriguing note is that the eight-year-olds were more sensitive to selfishness than the six-year-olds.

This study also played with multiple variations of the actor or the receiver being either in the ingroup or the out group. This came in the form of these four possibilities, “actor in, recipient in; actor in, recipient out; actor out, recipient in; actor out, recipient out.” The participants were more likely to punish the outgroup for being unfair in the offer than they would for the ingroup. However, that bias wasn’t as strong for the receiver being in the out-group, as while there was a disparity for the six-year-olds, the eight-year-olds treated them differently.

One interesting part of this study was that it didn’t use normal ingroup and outgroups that you would think of, such as race or gender. Instead, it split the children into two teams of different colors and was able to create ingroup preferences based on which team color the actor or participant was. The study did, however, check to make sure that gender was not having an effect on the data. While a curious way to go about things, I would rather focus on the natural ingroups and outgroups, since I feel like that would tell us more about our community and our societies racial biases.

One last takeaway I had was a test to see if the participants fully believed the actions were taking place. This brings into question whether or not it will matter for me if my subjects believe the scenarios they are presented. And if so, how will I create a believable environment.

Thanks for reading.

For those curious to learn more about the study and its findings:


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3 thoughts on “The Fairness of Children-Tom

  1. dexcoengilbert

    Do you think people’s concept of “fairness” will continue to develop and change with age? That would be an interesting question to answer.

  2. yihengxie

    I didn’t quite get your third to last paragraph. Great comment that eight-year-olds are more prone to selfishness than six-year-olds. That should be a normal sign for our development isn’t it?

  3. Silver Fu

    You said that you wanted to “test to see if the participants fully believed the actions were taking place.” Does it mean that the participants in the above experiment might just have made random choices if they didn’t actually believe in the scenario?


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