All inequality is not equal: Children correct inequalities using resource value

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33 Scopus citations


Fairness concerns guide children's judgments about how to share resources with others. However, it is unclear from past research if children take extant inequalities or the value of resources involved in an inequality into account when sharing with others; these questions are the focus of the current studies. In all experiments, children saw an inequality between two recipients-one had two more resources than another. What varied between conditions was the value of the resources that the child could subsequently distribute. When the resources were equal in value to those involved in the original inequality, children corrected the previous inequality by giving two resources to the child with fewer resources (Experiment 1). However, as the value of the resources increased relative to those initially shared by the experimenter, children were more likely to distribute the two high value resources equally between the two recipients, presumably to minimize the overall inequality in value (Experiments 1 and 2). We found that children specifically use value, not just size, when trying to equalize outcomes (Experiment 3) and further found that children focus on the relative rather than absolute value of the resources they share-when the experimenter had unequally distributed the same high value resource that the child would later share, children corrected the previous inequality by giving two high value resources to the person who had received fewer high value resources. These results illustrate that children attempt to correct past inequalities and try to maintain equality not just in the count of resources but also by using the value of resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 393
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUL
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • Fairness
  • Inequity aversion
  • Social exchange
  • Social norms
  • Value


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