Foundations of Fairness in Childhood

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 - 3:00pm to 4:30pm

The Jacob Marschak Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Mathematics in the Behavioral Sciences at UCLA

Speaker: Katherine McAuliffe, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Boston College

Faculty host: Dan Blumstein

Fairness is an important part of our cooperative lives. Indeed, adults across societies are willing to pay to uphold fairness norms and to punish those who refuse to uphold them. In this presentation, McAuliffe will propose that developmental data can offer insight into the forces that shape fairness over time and, in particular, can help shed light on the psychological mechanisms that support fairness in humans.

First, McAuliffe will discuss work showing that, while children across societies and a wide age range pay to avoid unfairness, we see interesting cross-age and cross-cultural variation in the emergence of this behavior. Next, she will discuss a set of studies that examines when and under what conditions children across cultures punish others as third parties for unfair behavior. From these studies, McAuliffe will distill four main lessons: (1) costly third-party punishment emerges relatively early in development in the USA, appearing around the age of 6; (2) children’s motives for punishment are more consistent with retributive than restorative theories of punishment; (3) like adults, children show cross-societal variation in third-party punishment; (4) children become less selfish in response to third-party punishment. Together, these studies demonstrate that children show surprising sophistication in their emerging ability to behave fairly and to promote fairness in others.

Katherine McAuliffe’s work focuses on the development and evolution of cooperation. Her primary research investigates how children develop an understanding of the norms governing cooperation and a willingness to enforce them. Her work on children is situated within a broader cross-cultural and comparative context that seeks to understand how and why the cognition supporting cooperation evolved. McAuliffe earned her University of King’s College, University of Cambridge, and her PhD. at Harvard University

Light refreshments will be served. Reservations are requested to