Do children outgrow socialism? May 27, 2010Posted by Lene Johansen in Public Policy.
Tags: age, communitarianism, cooperation, development, economics, game theory
A recent study in experimental economics from Norway has found a correlation between age and fairness. The study will be published in Science tomorrow.
The find comes thanks to an economic experiment known as the dictator game. Researchers led by experimental economist Alexander Cappelen of the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration in Bergen recruited youths aged 10 through 18 from schools near Bergen. Each child was paired with another student he or she didn’t know and then given a chance to earn real money by repeatedly noting the appearance of a particular three-figure number on a computer screen filled with large tables of numbers. Some students performed better at the task and thus earned more money. At the end of the game, the money earned by the pair was pooled, and one of the two students—the dictator—was asked to divvy up the cash with his or her partner in a way that he or she deemed fair.
Age determined how evenly the children divided up the earnings. About two-thirds of the youngest children, aged 10 to 11, split the pot evenly regardless of their own or their partner’s achievements. Older teenagers, however, split the pot based on achievement. Among 18-year-olds, for example, only 22% split the pot evenly with their partner, whereas 43% kept more for themselves because they felt like they’d earned it, the researchers report in tomorrow’s issue of Science.
Churchill predicted this result when he said, “If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain”.
There have been studies finding correlation between fairness and economic shortages. People in smaller communities with narrower economic margins are less likely to share equally, as compared to people in larger communities that interacts more in the global economy.
Previous studies have also found that people are likely punish non-members of the tribe more harshly as compared to members of their own tribe for the same transgression. There are indications that this effect of outgrowing socialism might be driven by both biology and environmental factors. What have you found in your studies?