Toddlers value people who help, study shows

According to a new study out of Queen's University, even very young children value people that help them and are motivated to return the favour. The study revealed that those children, when asked to pick one person to help, most often choose the person who was helpful to them.

"Children can identify helpful individuals and will be helpful toward those people," says study author Valerie Kuhlmeier (). "As early as the age of three, children already appear to be engaging in a variant of the golden rule: 'do unto others as they have done unto you.'"

In the study, children were presented with a puzzle that consisted of a picture covered in such a way as to allow only a small section to be seen. The children could not see what was in the picture but could interact with two puppets. Puppets are used in studies like this one because children treat them as peers.

One announced that it knew what the picture was and proceeded to tell the child. The second puppet said that it also knew the picture, but was not going to tell. Both puppets spoke in happy, friendly tones, and looked alike; they only differed in their to provide information.

Children were able to determine which puppet was helpful and, when the one puppet needed help reaching a far-way toy or solving a puzzle of their own, the children were quick to identify which puppet had helped them and returned the favour.

"There is a growing body of research demonstrating that spontaneously help others in many situations," says Dr. Kuhlmeier, director of the Group at Queen's. "What we are also finding is that they pick out the helpers around them, even when the helpful act is as simple as teaching them something new about their world, and they return the favor with their own helpful acts."

The study appears in PLOS ONE.

More information: www.plosone.org/article/info%3… journal.pone.0061804

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Four-year-olds know that being right is not enough

Aug 18, 2011

As they grow, children learn a lot about the world from what other people tell them. Along the way, they have to figure out who is a reliable source of information. A new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue ...

Giving makes young children happy, study suggests

Jun 19, 2012

If it is indeed nobler to give than to receive, it may also make you happier – even if you're a toddler, according to a new study co-authored by three psychologists at the University of British Columbia.

The good, the bad and the baby (w/ video)

Mar 29, 2011

Babies know when their diapers are clean or dirty, or when their tummies are empty or full. All you have to do is ask any sleep-deprived parent. But can babies tell when someone is acting good or bad? With ...

Recommended for you

Intervention program helps prevent high-school dropouts

16 hours ago

New research findings from a team of prevention scientists at Arizona State University demonstrates that a family-focused intervention program for middle-school Mexican American children leads to fewer drop-out rates and ...

Bilingualism over the lifespan

18 hours ago

It's a scene that plays out every day in Montreal. On the bus, in schools, in the office and at home, conversations weave seamlessly back and forth between French and English, or one of the many other languages represented ...

User comments