Study: When sharing, friendship is more important than fairness

Study: When sharing, friendship is more important than fairness

Children don't share by morality, but by friendship
Sharing things with other people is difficult not only for many children, but also for adults. However, most people are willing to give something up voluntarily - the only question is to whom? “When it comes to sharing, children act according to how much they are drawn to another,” reports the Ludwig Maximillians University of Munich (LMU) on the results of a current study.

Scientific studies have often examined the motives that motivate children to voluntarily share with others and the developments in this willingness to share in the course of life. "However, there is disagreement with the interpretation of the results," said the LMU. While some researchers see the origins of moral considerations here, others primarily focus on strengthening social relationships. The current study by Markus Paulus, professor for developmental psychology and educational psychology of early childhood at the LMU, examined the motives for voluntary sharing. The results were also published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

What motivates children to share?
The experiment carried out was designed to test the two assumptions - moral considerations and strengthening social relationships as the reason for sharing. Many factors that influence children in sharing were already known, explains Professor Paulus. For example, children would share with the poor rather than the rich and with a friend rather than a stranger. According to Prof. Paulus, they also pay attention to whether someone else has previously shown help. "But we still didn't know what was the most important thing for children," continued the developmental psychologist. In order to determine the strongest motivation of the children when sharing, preschool children were equipped with stickers in several experiments, which they could share under different conditions and specifications, reports the study director.

Children distribute stickers in the experiment
According to Professor Paulus, the children were divided into two age groups because the kindergarten years are crucial for the development of social behavior. One group included three and four year old children, the other five and six year old children. As part of the experiment, the children should first name the name of a good friend and a child they did not like to play with. Then they drew a picture of both. "Then they were asked to split their stickers between the two," although the friend already had a booklet full of 100 stickers and the other child only had three stickers. "The purpose of this experiment was to test whether the children were when deciding who to share with, more based on friendship or how much each other has, ”explains Markus Paulus.

Social relationships critical to willingness to share
According to the study director, the children "had a strong preference to share with the friend" even though he already had a large number of stickers. This shows that “the willingness of preschool children to give something depends primarily on their social relationship with the recipient.” In another experiment, the children were asked to split their stickers between a rich friend and a poor stranger. The friend always got the most here, but the strangers received more stickers than the unpopular child in the first experiment. "So you would rather share with a stranger than with someone you know but don't like," emphasizes Professor Paulus. This indicates that they are reluctant to give something to people they don't like. The trend towards favoring the boyfriend was even more pronounced among the older children than among the younger children, which indicates "that social relationships become more influential with age," says Paul.

Children also share after compassion
The study results should be a disappointment for all those who stylize the noble in children, because children always give their friend more than a poor stranger, according to the LMU. “The results show that fairness is not the strongest motivation for preschool children. Rather, you have to consider their social relationships if you want to understand why and how they share, ”said Paul. However, further studies are needed because the results could be different if the poor third party makes it clear that he is suffering from the situation. This could lead to the poor getting more, the study leader suspects. Other studies have found strong evidence "that preschoolers choose to share compassion when sharing." In addition, the study says nothing about how the children would behave when it came to essential needs like drinking and eating, rather than Stickers. (fp)

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