Stanford scholar Lin Bian found that in times of plenty infants expect fair distribution of goodies like toys or cookies. But when resources are scarce, infants expect people to favor their own social group.
Not playing fair is a common squabble in the sandbox.
Now, new research by a Stanford scholar provides an explanation for how infants and toddlers perceive these playground disputes, like how toys or cookies should be divvied up.
Lin Bian, a postdoctoral scholar of psychology at Stanford University, is lead author of a new study published Feb. 26 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that examines how infants and toddlers rank fairness versus supporting their own social group, which the researchers call ingroup support.
“Our work provides new evidence that infants’ reasoning is guided by principles of fairness and ingroup support and, for the first time, demonstrates that infants also follow a context-sensitive ordering of these principles,” Bian said. “When there is enough to go around, fairness is expected to prevail; when there is not enough to go around, however, ingroup support is expected to prevail.”