Adult instruction limits children's flexibility in moral decision making.
Children's moral behavior is guided, in part, by adults teaching children how to treat others. However, when circumstances change, such instructions may become either unhelpful or limiting. In the current study, 48 dyads of 5-year-olds played a collaborative game and either (a) received an instruction by an adult to share the spoils of the game equally, (b) did not receive any instruction (but still chose to share equally), or (c) agreed between themselves on a rule to share equally. Afterward, each child played with a new partner who was needier or worked harder in his or her collaboration and so plausibly deserved more than just half of the spoils. Results showed that children who were instructed by an adult shared less with their more deserving partner than children who did not receive any instruction. Thus, moral instruction by adults may, in some circumstances, make children more rigid in their moral decisions.
Hardecker, S; Buryn-Weitzel, JC; Tomasello, M
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