[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
If you’ve ever spent time with toddlers, sooner or later you’ll hear the word “Mine!” It’s usually followed by an adult saying, “Now, now, you have to learn to share.” But a study in the August 28th issue of Nature suggests we may be wasting our breath. Because kids in the preschool set have no interest in making sure everyone gets their fair share.
Scientists from Switzerland wondered if, and when, young children begin to consider the welfare of others. So they gathered up over 200 Swiss schoolchildren and a small mountain of candy. And one-by-one they gave each child a choice that goes something like this: I can give one M&M to you and one to one of the other kids. Or I can give one to you—and none to anyone else.
Children who were three or four years old didn’t much care whether or not their friends also got an M&M, or a jellybean or any other sweet. But that attitude changed by the time the kids were seven or eight, when almost 80 percent of them opted to be fair. Okay, that doesn’t exactly make them candidates for a Nobel Peace Prize. But maybe magnanimousness begins with an M…&M.