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Prosocial Behavior

Children as young as 1 to 2 years old help, share and comfort.


We want to find out under which circumstances children act more  in a prosocial manner or less in a prosocial manner, why they help and what expectations children have of the prosocial behaviour of others.



How do we explore prosocial behaviour?


Sometimes the children themselves can act in a prosocial manner, sometimes they can express their opinion about observed behaviour of e.g. hand puppets.


For example, we could show that five- to six-year-olds (but not three- to four-year-olds) protest when a doll shares with a rich person instead of with a poor person. This means that children of this age have an understanding of charity norms and demand that they are met.



Why is that important?


Cooperation and mutual support in everyday situations is central to a functioning society. We want to find out what mechanisms lie behind prosocial behaviour and how they develop. In this way we can find ways to promote them and make a small contribution to peaceful coexistence.


Children generally seem to have a natural need to be friendly with others. In everyday life, however, we sometimes prevent this need by, for example, not letting children help with household chores ("The table is set faster if little Karl doesn't walk between my feet."). How one can satisfy the child's need for participation is also a goal of our research.