Mutual identification promotes children's generosity

Anne A. Fast, Sylvia A. Morelli, Jamil Zaki, Kristina R. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

From an early age, children act generously towards one another, but the situational features that promote generous decision-making remain under investigation. The current study tests the impact of being identifiable—as a recipient of generosity, a giver, or both—on children's generosity. Six-year-old children (N = 129) allocated resources to a recipient during a video chat paradigm. Children were most generous when both they and the recipient could identify one another (i.e., in the case of mutual identification). Children were less generous in an anonymous situation and in ‘one-sided’ situations in which only the recipient or only the giver was identifiable to the other child. These results illustrate that mutual identification, an ecologically valid experience of being able to identify and be identified by a recipient of one's generous action, is an especially powerful contributor to generous decision-making in childhood. Further, insofar as increasing generosity among children is a goal, these results indicate that increasing identifiability among givers and recipients may be an effective way to achieve this goal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2310
JournalInfant and Child Development
Volume31
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

Keywords

  • childhood generosity
  • identifiability
  • mutual identification
  • prosocial behaviour
  • resource allocation

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