Qiao Chai, Jun Yin, Mowei Shen, Jie He

Act generously when others do so: Majority influence on young children's sharing behavior

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

AbstractChildren's sharing behavior is profoundly shaped by social norms within their society, and they can learn these norms by directly observing how most others share in their immediate environment. Here we systematically investigated the impact of majority influence on the sharing behavior of young Chinese children through three studies (N = 336, 168 girls). Four‐ and 6‐year‐olds were allowed to choose 10 favorite stickers and had an opportunity to engage in anonymous sharing. Before making the sharing decision, children were assigned to one of two conditions: watching a video in which three peers all shared 8 out of 10 stickers (i.e., the majority sharing condition) or making their decisions without watching the video (i.e., the control condition). Results showed that both the 4‐ and 6‐year‐old children shared more stickers in the majority sharing condition than in the control condition (Studies 1 & 2). Moreover, the influence of the majority had a stronger effect compared to the influence of a single role model. Children shared more stickers after observing three peers sharing, compared to watching one peer sharing three times (Study 2). Furthermore, children were less likely to copy the majority's non‐sharing behavior when it came to giving away stickers without prosocial outcomes, which was particularly evident among 4‐year‐olds (Study 3). The results reveal that majority influence uniquely shapes children's sharing behavior and that children selectively follow the majority based on whether the behavior exhibits prosocial attributes.Research Highlights Observing a majority of three peers’ unanimous generous sharing promoted sharing behavior in both 4‐ and 6‐year‐olds. The influence of three peers on children's sharing was stronger than that of one peer sharing three times. Four‐year‐olds, but not 6‐year‐olds, did not copy the non‐sharing behavior of the majority as it did not lead to prosocial outcomes.

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