The first and second authors contributed equally to this work; order was determined alphabetically.
“Helping” Versus “Being a Helper”: Invoking the Self to Increase Helping in Young Children
Version of Record online: 29 APR 2014
© 2014 The Authors. Child Development © 2014 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
Volume 85, Issue 5, pages 1836–1842, September/October 2014
How to Cite
Bryan, C. J., Master, A. and Walton, G. M. (2014), “Helping” Versus “Being a Helper”: Invoking the Self to Increase Helping in Young Children. Child Development, 85: 1836–1842. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12244
The authors thank Sapna Cheryan, Carol Dweck, Tony Greenwald, Ellen Markman, Andy Meltzoff, Tyler Hillman, members of the Dweck/Walton lab, and members of the Stereotypes, Identity, and Belonging Lab for helpful comments; Jacky Mendoza, Julia Clark, Noam Ziv-Crispel, Rebecca Davis, Mindy Truong, Jacob Rode, Haley Harrington, and Amalia Noyola for assistance with data collection and coding; and the children, teachers, and staff at participating schools.
- Issue online: 15 SEP 2014
- Version of Record online: 29 APR 2014
Can a subtle linguistic cue that invokes the self motivate children to help? In two experiments, 3- to 6-year-old children (N = 149) were exposed to the idea of “being a helper” (noun condition) or “helping” (verb condition). Noun wording fosters the perception that a behavior reflects an identity—the kind of person one is. Both when children interacted with an adult who referenced “being a helper” or “helping” ('Experiment 1') and with a new adult ('Experiment 2'), children in the noun condition helped significantly more across four tasks than children in the verb condition or a baseline control condition. The results demonstrate that children are motivated to pursue a positive identity. Moreover, this motivation can be leveraged to encourage prosocial behavior.