"I only want one!" Children's Evaluations of Inequality by Choice

Drell, Marissa, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Drell, Marissa, Arts & Sciences Graduate-asg, University of Virginia

Young children believe individuals should receive the same number of resources (Shaw & Olson, 2012). However, research has found that, by age 6, children have learned that it is acceptable to deviate from equality in the case of effort and need (Rizzo & Killen, 2016; Rizzo, Elenbaas, Cooley, & Killen, 2016). In the studies here, I asked whether 6- and 8-year-olds also consider inequality that occurs when one person chooses to take less than his or her fair share of the available resources as another acceptable reason to deviate from equality. Study 1 found evidence for a developmental shift in response to inequality by choice such that 6-year-olds object, 8-year-olds are ambivalent (some think it is okay while others do not), and adults think that it is permissible for one person to take less than half the resources and for a second person to take the remainder. Study 2 found that 6-year-olds’ objection to inequality by choice in Study 1 is not due to a failure to understand that two people can desire different amounts but rather is driven by a normative response that everyone should take the same amount. Study 3 and 4 found that 6- and 8-year-olds’ objection to inequality by choice is primarily driven by the violation of the equal outcome norm as opposed to other potential norm violations. Study 5 found that 6-year-olds are unable to override the equal outcome norm even when the amount of cognitive effort needed to understand inequality by choice is reduced. This research adds to a growing body of literature on the developmental timeline of the factors children integrate into their resource distribution judgments.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
fairness, inequity aversion , social cognition, desire, free will
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