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Children’s Developing Commitments to Joint Goals


  • We would like to thank Juliane Dauksch, Anja Flödl, Ulrike Gasse, Elena Rossi, Christina Tausch, and Victoria Walter for their help in recruiting children, collecting data, and coding. Thanks to all the children and day-care centers for their friendly cooperation. This work has received funding from the EC Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement 215805.

concerning this article should be addressed to Katharina Hamann, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study investigated young children’s commitment to a joint goal by assessing whether peers in collaborative activities continue to collaborate until all received their rewards. Forty-eight 2.5- and 3.5-year-old children worked on an apparatus dyadically. One child got access to her reward early. For the partner to benefit as well, this child had to continue to collaborate even though there was no further reward available to her. The study found that 3.5-year-olds, but not 2.5-year-olds, eagerly assisted their unlucky partner. They did this less readily in a noncollaborative control condition. A second study confirmed that 2.5-year-old children understood the task structure. These results suggest that children begin to appreciate the normative dimensions of collaborative activities during the 3rd year of life.