Grateful Giving: Affective Influences on Children's Upstream Reciprocity

Author: ORCID icon
Beeler, Stefen, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Vaish, Amrisha, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia

Two studies investigated the development and motivations underlying children’s upstream reciprocity. In Study 1, 3- and 4-year-olds (n=40 per age group) received or did not receive help while playing a game. Subsequently, children could share stickers with a new child. Four-year-olds, but not 3-year-olds, showed evidence of upstream reciprocity: Those who had received help were more generous towards the new child. Study 2 (n=46) replicated these results and found evidence for a gratitude-like motivation underlying the upstream reciprocity: Children who received help evaluated the benefactor more positively, and positive evaluations of the benefactor correlated with children’s upstream reciprocity. Thus, upstream reciprocity emerges by 4 years of age and may already be motivated by a nascent sense of gratitude.

MA (Master of Arts)
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