The Loh Down On Science

Getting Along

Worried that your kids won't share? They'll learn to, and the social benefits of fairness, too.

No really--why CAN'T we all just get along?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh, with the Loh Down on Science.

Ernst Fehrn, from the University of Zurich, sought an answer to this timeless question. So he challenged two hundred thirty unrelated children to a game of give OR take. The kids, ages three to eight, were randomly paired.

Then ONE child was given the power to divvy up jellybeans and other kid currency among the pair.

When three- and four-year-olds were given this chance to take all and give nothing, NINETY-ONE percent DID. They took all the spoils.

Willingness to share increased with age -- but the older kids were no fools! When asked to take one candy and dole out either one or two, eighty percent of older kids chose to give only what they got.

In other words, they had learned the importance of EQUALITY--not taking advantage of, or giving an advantage to, others.

In a nutshell? We're born selfish to the bone, but eventually learn the fairness that's necessary to function in cooperation-based societies.

Unfortunately. 'Cause I really deserve more jelly beans but whatever!


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