Magazine article Science News

Young Kids Can Negotiate Turn-Taking: At a Surprisingly Early Age, Children Opt to Share Sacrifices

Magazine article Science News

Young Kids Can Negotiate Turn-Taking: At a Surprisingly Early Age, Children Opt to Share Sacrifices

Article excerpt

BERLIN -- From supermarket checkout lines to merge lanes on highways, adults often resolve social dilemmas by taking turns. Pairs of 5-year-old preschoolers can do it too, a new study finds. Children frequently work out deals to take turns when their interests collide, suggesting that this sophisticated strategy emerges surprisingly early in life.

By agreeing that each person will alternate in passing up a reward to avoid worse outcomes, duos of preschoolers earned a couple more colorful stickers than they would have otherwise, said psychology graduate student Sebastian Gruneisen of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Gruneisen presented his preliminary findings June 10 at the Summer Institute on Bounded Rationality, a weeklong set of seminars and workshops for young scientists, at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

"Five-year-olds can coordinate decisions with others in a fair way, even when each child has conflicting interests," Gruneisen said.

Until now, researchers had not examined whether preschoolers are capable of forging and enforcing turn-taking agreements when competing for rewards, remarked psychologist Monika Keller of the human development institute. Researchers suspected that preschool children might not arrange and abide by equitable strategies, she said.

Gruneisen and psychologist Michael Tomasello, also of the Leipzig facility, asked 10 pairs of 5-year-old boys and 10 pairs of 5-year-old girls to play a game in which each child steered a toy train carrying three marbles. …

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