The Is and Ought of Sharing: The Equality Heuristic Across the Lifespan

Monika Keller, Michaela Gummerum, Thomas Canz, Gerd Gigerenzer and Masanori Takezawa

in Simple Heuristics in a Social World

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195388435
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950089 | DOI:

Series: Evolution and Cognition Series

The Is and Ought of Sharing: The Equality Heuristic Across the Lifespan

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The chapter reports a series of studies comparing sharing behavior, moral judgment, and the negotiation of sharing in the dictator game, a nonstrategic fairness task in behavioral economics. Participants of five age groups of 9-, 12-, 14-, 17-year-olds and adults first made (hypothetical) individual decisions and then negotiated in groups of three persons of the same sex how much to share with an anonymous same-sex other group. Sharing equally was the modal choice across all age groups; the youngest and oldest participants offered somewhat less than the other age groups. Arguments in the group negotiations were scored according to a coding manual. The arguments for both fair offers and offers that deviated from equal splits became increasingly elaborate across age groups; groups that offered less than equal splits provided more and more different arguments. A second study including the same age groups assessed offers in an anonymous individual context and also moral judgments of what was evaluated as the fairest offer in this context. No differences in offers were found compared to the first study; across all age groups the majority of participants evaluated equal sharing as the morally right offer. Offers and fairness judgments were in general found to be highly consistent. However, the discrepancy between the fairness judgment and the actual offer, e.g., offering less than what was evaluated as fair, increased substantially in adolescence and in particular in adulthood.

Keywords: game theory; dictator game; cooperation; developmental psychology; moral judgment; moral negotiation; fairness; self-interest

Chapter.  9357 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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