Five-year olds choose to 'play nice' based on other kids' reputations

August 7, 2013

Five-to-six-year olds are more likely to be kind to peers after observing them interacting with other children in positive ways, suggesting that children establish a sense of their peers' 'reputation' early in life. The results are published August 7 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Kenji Onishi and colleagues from Osaka University, Japan.

The researchers observed kindergarteners' day-to-day behavior and found that in a playground were more likely to offer an object or help a child whom they had seen being helpful to another child. Children were more likely to behave in pro-social ways when they observed their peers doing so. Observing another child's pro-social behavior also evoked positive emotions towards that child in bystanders.

Cooperating with someone based on their reputation, or observations of their behavior with other people, is crucial to the success of cooperative societies. Though being 'nice' isn't always reciprocated by the recipient, it increases an individual's chances of being helped by others in the network. The results of this study demonstrate children's behavioral tendency toward such social indirect , and suggest that this may be mediated by the increase in positive emotions when a child was seen performing a pro-social action.

Explore further: Children with autism show increased positive social behaviors when animals are present

More information: Kato-Shimizu M, Onishi K, Kanazawa T, Hinobayashi T (2013) Preschool Children's Behavioral Tendency toward Social Indirect Reciprocity. PLOS ONE 8(8): e70915. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070915

Related Stories

Study: Kindergarten friendships matter, especially for boys

November 29, 2011

High-quality friendships in kindergarten may mean that boys will have fewer behavior problems and better social skills in first and third grades, said Nancy McElwain, a University of Illinois associate professor of human ...

Recommended for you

Study shows there's a positive side to worrying

April 27, 2017

Worry - it does a body good. And, the mind as well. A new paper by Kate Sweeny, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, argues there's an upside to worrying.

Study links cannabis use in adolescence to schizophrenia

April 26, 2017

Scientists believe that schizophrenia, a disorder caused by an imbalance in the brain's chemical reactions, is triggered by a genetic interaction with environmental factors. A new Tel Aviv University study published in Human ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.