Understanding of the principles of retribution in children comes before gratitude. But the stories and tales can influence this process and to teach children to cooperate.
Scientists decided to find out how and when young children are developing positive reciprocity: the age at which they want to return good for good. It turned out that in children’s understanding of retribution comes sooner thanks.
“The idea is to thank the person who helped you, important for development cooperation. This is what establishes relationships that will remain for a long time,” says Peter Blake, a Professor at Boston University.
Blake and his colleagues recruited 330 children aged 4 to 8 years old to participate in a series of experiments. In each trial the child was asked to play a computer game with four other players. Actually on the screen were images of animals, which was controlled by the researchers. Each of the four players received a sticker as a gift, and the child – no. Moreover, the players can either leave the sticker yourself or give to a child. One player gave a sticker to a child. Then the child received only a sticker and could give it to the player of their choice. The second stage of the game one of the players stole a sticker from a child, and the child was able to steal a sticker from another player.
Blake and his colleagues found that the children, even the smallest, readily strikes back at thieves, did not wanted to reward its benefactors.
Maybe the kids just forgot those who gave them their sticker? Immediately after each game, the researchers asked children about the players, and they all remembered quite accurately. In addition, the children clearly had no problem with the punishment of thieves. But why they didn’t feel the urge to return the favor? “We were really puzzled by this,” says Blake.
The propensity for retribution is preserved, while the mutual kindness was not shown, as if the researchers did not change the conditions of the experiment. “We couldn’t get them to do it,” says Blake. Really, children are programmed to revenge? Blake believes that it is more protective step – children want to protect themselves from injustice.
Blake also refers to earlier research that shows that young children expect that others will be kind to them, so antagonistic behavior may be more intense.
In the end, the scientists told the children a simple tale, illustrating the importance of mutual assistance and cooperation. The idea was proposed Cinsi Hu, a researcher working in the lab Blake. A native of China, Hu was convinced that Chinese children, from a young age are taught Proverbs and stories to Express gratitude, the more you know about reciprocity than their American peers. Tactic worked. After hearing the story, children began to bless their benefactors, and this trend increased with age. The researchers plan to repeat these experiments in China, to test the hypothesis Hu.
This idea can be used for parents who want to develop in the children a sense of gratitude: to read more and tell my children stories on this topic before going to sleep.
Scientists also say that parents should not be concerned about the results: “If someone steals you lunch money every day, you have something to do with it. In a society of primates is important that you can fend for yourself.”