Young children share more under time pressure than after a delay

Maria Ploetner*, Robert Hepach, Harriet Over, Malinda Carpenter, Michael Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adults under time pressure share with others generously, but with more time they act more selfishly. In the current study, we investigated whether young children already operate in this same way, and, if so, whether this changes over the preschool and early school age years. We tested 144 children in three age groups (3-, 5-, and 7-year olds) in a one-shot dictator game: Children were given nine stickers and had the possibility to share stickers with another child who was absent. Children in the Time Pressure condition were instructed to share quickly, whereas children in the Delay condition were instructed to take time and consider their decision carefully. Across ages, children in the Time Pressure condition shared significantly more stickers than children in the Delay condition. Moreover, the longer children waited, the less they shared. Thus, children, like adults, are more prosocial when acting spontaneously than after considering their decision more carefully.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0248121
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2021


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