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Psychologists explore sharing in young children

We can put a man on the moon . . . but can we get toddlers to share?

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

Psychologists at the University of Michigan studied sharing in one-hundred-and-two youngsters, ages three to eight.

One group of kids was asked: Is it important to share?  All said: Yes!  Then each received four stickers.  When asked to share, the older kids did so.

But the toddlers?  No way!

Did the toddlers forget their scruples because they couldn't resist the temptation in front of them?

To find out, the researchers asked another group of children about sharing.  These kids also said it's important.  Then they asked the children to predict whether, if given the chance, they would share.  The older kids said yes, but the toddlers said no, they wouldn't share!

The researchers say this shows toddler failure to share isn't because it's too hard to resist temptation.  What's more likely?  That understanding the importance of complying with social norms doesn't fully develop until later.

Long after potty training.  Where toddlers tend to overshare!  At least, acccording to my research!


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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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