Do 7-year-old children understand social leverage?

Alejandro Sánchez-Amaro, Shona Duguid, Josep Call, Michael Tomasello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individuals with an advantageous position during a negotiation possess leverage over their partners. Several studies with adults have investigated how leverage can influence the coordination strategies of individuals when conflicts of interest arise. In this study, we explored how pairs of 7-year-old children solved a coordination game (based on the Snowdrift scenario) when one child had leverage over the other child. We presented a social dilemma in the form of an unequal reward distribution on a rotating tray. The rotating tray could be accessed by both children. The child who waited longer to act received the best outcome, but if both children waited too long, they would lose the rewards. In addition, one child could forgo the access to the rotating tray for an alternative option—the leverage. Although children rarely used their leverage strategically, children with access to the alternative were less likely to play the social dilemma, especially when their leverage was larger. Furthermore, children waited longer to act as the leverage decreased. Finally, children almost never failed to coordinate. The results hint to a trade-off between maximizing benefits while maintaining long-term collaboration in complex scenarios where strategies such as turn taking are hard to implement.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104963
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Early online date6 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Leverage
  • Conflict of interest
  • Cooperation
  • Children


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