Children discard a resource to avoid inequity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

278 Scopus citations


Elucidating how inequity aversion (a tendency to dislike and correct unequal outcomes) functions as one develops is important to understanding more complex fairness considerations in adulthood. Although previous research has demonstrated that adults and children reduce inequity, it is unclear if people are actually responding negatively to inequity or if people dislike others getting more than them (motivated by social comparison) and like to share maximal resources, especially with those who have few resources (motivated by social welfare preferences). In order to evaluate if children are truly averse to inequity, we had 3- to 8-year-old children distribute resources to 3rd parties and found that 6- to 8-year-old children would rather throw a resource in the trash than distribute unequally, suggesting that concerns with equity can trump concerns with maximal sharing. We also demonstrated that children's reactions were not based on wanting to avoid upsetting the recipients or based on a preference for visual symmetry and that children will even throw away a resource that could have gone to themselves in order to avoid inequity. These results demonstrate the existence of inequity aversion in children, provide a new method for studying inequity aversion specifically, and suggest the need for new models to explain why inequity aversion may have evolved. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-395
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • General Psychology


  • Evolution
  • Fairness
  • Inequity aversion
  • Social cognitive development


Dive into the research topics of 'Children discard a resource to avoid inequity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this