Children negotiate taking turns surprisingly early in life

Five-year-old preschoolers opt to share sacrifices, study finds

4:51pm, June 17, 2014

TRAIN GAINS  Pairs of 5-year-olds who steered toy trains in this set-up often decided to take turns swerving their vehicles so that each child could alternately earn big rewards.

BERLIN — From supermarket checkout lines to merge lanes on highways, adults often resolve social dilemmas by taking turns. Pairs of 5-year-old preschoolers can do it too, a new study finds. Children frequently work out deals to take turns when their interests collide, suggesting that this sophisticated strategy emerges surprisingly early in life.

By agreeing that each person will alternate in passing up a reward to avoid worse outcomes, duos of preschoolers earned a couple more colorful stickers than they would have otherwise, said psychology graduate student Sebastian Grüneisen of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.

More from the Science News Archives