Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Children universally across societies enforce conventional norms but in culturally variable ways

From Kanngiesser et al. in PNAS:
Humans, as compared with other animals, create and follow conventional norms that determine how we greet each other, dress, or play certain games. Conventional norms are universal in all human societies, but it is an open question whether individuals in all societies also actively enforce conventional norms when others in their group break them. We investigated third-party enforcement of conventional norms in 5- to 8-y-old children (n = 376) from eight diverse small-scale and large-scale societies. Children learned the rules for playing a new sorting game and then, observed a peer who was apparently breaking them. Across societies, observer children intervened frequently to correct their misguided peer (i.e., more frequently than when the peer was following the rules). However, both the magnitude and the style of interventions varied across societies. Detailed analyses of children’s interactions revealed societal differences in children’s verbal protest styles as well as in their use of actions, gestures, and nonverbal expressions to intervene. Observers’ interventions predicted whether their peer adopted the observer’s sorting rule. Enforcement of conventional norms appears to be an early emerging human universal that comes to be expressed in culturally variable ways.

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