Preschoolers Reduce Inequality While Favoring Individuals With More


  • The authors thank Sarah Lovell, Alex Shaw, Marina Addams, Sarah Hailey, Lacey Hutchison, Patrick Nalepka, and Melanie Fox for running participants in these studies as well as the Psi Chi Summer Research Grant to Brian Spitzer and The Science of Virtue Grant and National Science Foundation Grant 1004797 to Kristina Olson for funding this research.


Inequalities are everywhere, yet little is known about how children respond to people affected by inequalities. This article explores two responses—minimizing inequalities and favoring those who are advantaged by them. In Studies 1a (N = 37) and 1b (N = 38), 4- and 5-year-olds allocated a resource to a disadvantaged recipient, but judged advantaged recipients more positively. In Studies 'Study 2' (N = 38) and 'Study 3' (N = 74), a delay occurred between seeing the inequality and allocating resources, or stating a preference, during which time participants forgot who was initially more advantaged. Children then favored advantaged recipients on the preference and resource allocation measures, suggesting an implicit “affective tagging” mechanism drives the tendency to favor the advantaged. In contrast, reducing inequalities through resource allocation appears to require explicit reasoning.