To Give or Not to Give: Children’s and Adolescents’ Sharing and Moral Negotiations in Economic Decision Situations


  • We would like to thank all students and teachers at the Fichtenberg Gymnasium, Französische Gymnasium, and Grundschule an der Bäke for their participation; and Silke Atmaca, Dana Baltruschat, Susanne Baum-Deierlein, Agnes Brandt, Thomas Canz, Nellie Hankonen, Maren Hoffmann, Abiba Saibou, Sonja Schulze, Wiebke Seefeldt, and Erna Schiwietz and her team for help in data collection and analysis. Many thanks to Yaniv Hanoch and our colleagues at the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition for comments on earlier versions of this manuscript, Anita Todd and Jutta Miller for editing, and Gerd Gigerenzer for his continuous support.

concerning this article should be addressed to Michaela Gummerum, School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AA, United Kingdom. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study interconnects developmental psychology of fair and moral behavior with economic game theory. One hundred eighty-nine 9- to 17-year-old students shared a sum of money as individuals and groups with another anonymous group (dictator game). Individual allocations did not differ by age but did by gender and were predicted by participants’ preferences for fair allocations. Group decision making followed a majority process. Level of moral reasoning did not predict individual offers, but group members with a higher moral reasoning ability were more influential during group negotiations and in influencing group outcomes. The youngest participants justified offers more frequently by referring to simple distribution principles. Older participants employed more complex reasons to justify deviations from allocation principles.