What conditions encourage children to share?

    • Topic: Social Interactions

    • Location: Discovery Center

    Many studies show that adults share equally with others when asked to divide up valuable items, such as money; however, children develop this type of equal sharing over time. This study seeks to better understand how children develop equal sharing, specifically when sharing a small versus large number of valuable items or when sharing with more than one person.

    In this study, children (ages 3-9) will be asked to select their favorite of four types of stickers. Children will be given some of their favorite stickers and told that they can keep the stickers or share them with another child coming to the museum tomorrow. A “privacy box” will be placed in front of the child so they can divide up the stickers without anyone watching, placing stickers in either their own envelope, which they will take home, or the other child’s envelope.

    Children will be given either a larger number of stickers or a smaller number of stickers to distribute. Also, in some cases children will be asked to share with one child while in other cases children will be asked to share with two children.

    We predict that children will distribute the stickers more equally as they get older. We also predict that children will share more stickers with others when they are given a larger number of stickers than when they do not have as many stickers.

    Posid, T., Fazio, A., & Cordes, S. (2015). Being Sticker Rich: Numerical Context Influences Children’s Sharing Behavior. PloS one, 10(11), e0138928.

    This research is conducted at the Museum of Science, Boston by the Infant & Child Cognition Lab at Boston College.

        » Infant & Child Cognition Lab

    Activities to Try in the Discovery Center

    One Block, Two Blocks

    In the Physical Science area, collect twelve Magnetos magnet pieces and two person-blocks. Place one person-block across from your child. Introduce the block to your child as “a friend who also likes to play with Magnetos”. Give your child the twelve Magnetos. Ask him/her if s/he would like to share the Magnetos with a “friend.” Observe how s/he distributes the Magnetos.

    Collect the Magnetos again. Place two person-shaped blocks across from your child. Present your child with the twelve Magnetos, and ask if s/he would like to share the Magnetos with two “friends.” Observe how your child distributes the Magnetos. Does your child share the same way with one “friend” as with two “friends?”

    Activities to Try at Home

    All the Crayons in the Box

    Ask your child to draw or color with you at home. Keep a pile of four and a pile of ten crayons where your child cannot see them. Place four crayons on the table. Tell your child that all of the crayons are his/hers but can be shared with you if s/he would like. Leave the room while your child distributes the crayons. When you return, observe how s/he divided the crayons.

    Later, remove all the crayons from the table, and then place ten crayons on the table. Tell your child that s/he can keep all the crayons or share them with you. Leave the room and when you return, observe how your child has distributed the crayons. Did s/he share the same way when starting with more crayons as when starting with fewer?

Research Spotlight

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