Restorative Justice in Children.
An important, and perhaps uniquely human, mechanism for maintaining cooperation against free riders is third-party punishment. Our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, will not punish third parties even though they will do so when personally affected. Until recently, little attention has been paid to how punishment and a sense of justice develop in children. Children respond to norm violations. They are more likely to share with a puppet that helped another individual as opposed to one who behaved harmfully, and they show a preference for seeing a harmful doll rather than a victim punished. By 6 years of age, children will pay a cost to punish fictional and real peers, and the threat of punishment will lead preschoolers to behave more generously. However, little is known about what motivates a sense of justice in children. We gave 3- and 5-year-old children--the youngest ages yet tested--the opportunity to remove items and prevent a puppet from gaining a reward for second- and third-party violations (experiment 1), and we gave 3-year-olds the opportunity to restore items (experiment 2). Children were as likely to engage in third-party interventions as they were when personally affected, yet they did not discriminate among the different sources of harm for the victim. When given a range of options, 3-year-olds chose restoration over removal. It appears that a sense of justice centered on harm caused to victims emerges early in childhood and highlights the value of third-party interventions for human cooperation.
Riedl, K; Jensen, K; Call, J; Tomasello, M
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