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Children's and adults' judgments of equitable resource distributions


Koleen McCrink, 33 Kirkland Street, William James Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA; e-mail:


This study explored the criteria that children and adults use when evaluating the niceness of a character who is distributing resources. Four- and five-year-olds played the ‘Giving Game’, in which two puppets with different amounts of chips each gave some portion of these chips to the children. Adults played an analogous task that mimicked the situations presented to children in the Giving Game. For all groups of participants, we manipulated the absolute amount and proportion of chips given away. We found that children and adults used different cues to establish which puppet was nicer: 4-year-olds focused exclusively on absolute amount, 5-year-olds showed some sensitivity to proportion, and adults focused exclusively on proportion. These results are discussed in light of their implications for equity theory and for theories of the development of social evaluation.

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