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Preschoolers & Choice

September 2, 2013

Giving preschoolers a choice whether or not to share may encourage future generosity.



Children and choices. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

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Experimenter: You get to choose, okay? You can either choose this sticker for yourself, or you can put it in the box for Doggie.

Child: I put it in the box.

Adults often try to cajole children into sharing. But a new study suggests that giving kids a choice could be a more effective way to encourage generosity. This according to Cornell developmental psychologists Tamar Kushnir and Nadia Chernyak. In an experiment, they found that preschoolers who were allowed to choose between keeping a sticker for themselves or giving it to a sad puppet were much more likely to be generous in future interactions than children who were forced to share.

NADIA CHERNYAK (Cornell University):

When they made that initial difficult choice, they may have inferred something important about themselves. Perhaps that that choice felt good, or that you actually referred to give up something of your own for someone else, and that then propelled them to keep sharing later on.


I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.