Structural explanations lead young children and adults to rectify resource inequalities

Ny Vasil, Mahesh Srinivasan, Monica E. Ellwood-Lowe, Sierra Delaney, Alison Gopnik, Tania Lombrozo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Decisions about how to divide resources have profound social and practical consequences. Do explanations regarding the source of existing inequalities influence how children and adults allocate new resources? When 3- to 6-year-old children (N = 201) learned that inequalities were caused by structural forces (stable external constraints affecting access to resources) as opposed to internal forces (effort), they rectified inequalities, overriding previously documented tendencies to perpetuate inequality or divide resources equally. Adults (N = 201) were more likely than children to rectify inequality spontaneously; this was further strengthened by a structural explanation but reversed by an effort-based explanation. Allocation behaviors were mirrored in judgments of which allocation choices by others were appropriate. These findings reveal how explanations powerfully guide social reasoning and action from childhood through adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105896
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
StatePublished - Jun 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


  • Internalist explanation
  • Resource allocation
  • Social reasoning
  • Structural explanation


Dive into the research topics of 'Structural explanations lead young children and adults to rectify resource inequalities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this