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Even Kindergartners Show Generosity Only When Watched by Others

Update Date: Nov 01, 2012 04:35 PM EDT

A new study suggests that even children as young as 5-year-olds are pretty selfish, but would show a generous behavior, if they know their actions are being watched.

According to the research, even kindergartners show this adult like behavior, of saving their reputation, when someone is watching them. However, when the same task is done by them when without any supervision by others, they show more of a selfish behavior.

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For the study, the researchers gave stickers to five-year-old children and told them to either share one or four stickers with another child of the same age.

The researchers found that children showed more generosity in the presence of the recipient than when the recipient was hidden from their view. Also, children gave away more stickers when they had to give in a transparent box, when compared to when they were asked to give the stickers in an opaque box.

This behavior was apparently found to be consistent irrespective of the number of stickers the donor child was allowed to keep for him/herself.

"Although the frequency with which children acted antisocially is striking, the conditions under which they chose to act generously are even more interesting and suggest that children likely use much more sophisticated prosocial strategies than we previously assumed. Much like the patterns of charity we see in adults, donation tendencies in children appear to be driven by the amount of information available to others about their actions- for both adults and children, the more others know about their actions, the more likely they are to act generously," Kristin Lyn Leimgruber, the author of the study, from Yale University explained.

The research was published on Oct. 31 in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

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