Friday, December 18, 2009

Eldest children are less cooperative, trusting, and reciprocating

In a brief review titled "Why your older brother didn't share" ScienceNow points to interesting work by Courtiol et al. Their abstract:
Explaining the behavioural variations observed between individuals is an important step for understanding the evolution of human cooperation and personality traits. Birth order is a potentially important variable that implies physical and cognitive differences between siblings and differential access to parental resources during childhood. These differences have been shown to influence several personality characteristics in adulthood. We tested the hypothesis that birth order can shape adult cooperative behaviours towards nonkin. An anonymous investment game was played by 510 unrelated students. The results of the game show that firstborns were less trustful and reciprocated less than others. No significant differences in trust or reciprocity were found among laterborn and only children based on birth order. Firstborn status was a better predictor of cooperativeness than age, sex, income or religion. These results constitute some of the first experimental evidence that birth order differences established within the family can persist in adult behaviour among nonkin. We discuss the implications of this finding for the evolution of human cooperation.

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