Recent research suggests that infants possess principles of fairness and ingroup support. We examined whether 1.5- and 2.5-y-olds would prioritize fairness or ingroup support when the two were pitted against each other. Children watched mixed-recipients resource-allocation events in which a puppet distributor faced two potential recipients, an ingroup and an outgroup puppet. Expectations about the distributor’s actions depended on how many allocation items were available. When there were as many items as puppets, children expected fairness to prevail; when there were fewer items than puppets, however, children expected ingroup support to prevail. Thus, beginning early in life, children expect fairness in mixed-recipients scenarios unless there is a shortage of resources, in which case they expect ingroup support to override fairness.Abstract
Recent research suggests that the foundations of human moral cognition include abstract principles of fairness and ingroup support. We examined which principle 1.5-y-old infants and 2.5-y-old toddlers would prioritize when the two were pitted against each other. In violation-of-expectation tasks, a puppet distributor brought in either two (two-item condition) or three (three-item condition) items and faced two potential recipients, an ingroup and an outgroup puppet. In each condition, the distributor allocated two items in one of three events: She gave one item each to the ingroup and outgroup puppets (equal event), she gave both items to the ingroup puppet (favors-ingroup event), or she gave both items to the outgroup puppet (favors-outgroup event). Children in the two-item condition looked significantly longer at the equal or favors-outgroup event than at the favors-ingroup event, suggesting that when there were only enough items for the group to which the distributor belonged, children detected a violation if she gave any of the items to the outgroup puppet. In the three-item condition, in contrast, children looked significantly longer at the favors-ingroup or favors-outgroup event than at the equal event, suggesting that when there were enough items for all puppets present, children detected a violation if the distributor chose to give two items to one recipient and none to the other, regardless of which recipient was advantaged. Thus, infants and toddlers expected fairness to prevail when there were as many items as puppets, but they expected ingroup support to trump fairness otherwise.