Sometimes, even three-year-olds just want to fit in with the
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The finding of a new study by Duke University researchers shows that, by their third birthday, children are more likely to go along with what others say or do for the sake of following the crowd, rather than acting out of a desire to kowtow to authority or heed that person's preferences per se.

To better understand what motivates preschoolers to fall in line, the researchers conducted a study where researchers invited 3.5-year-olds to help set up for a pretend tea party. Each of the 104 children was given a blue sticker to wear at the start of the study and told that the people with that color sticker were part of the same team. Next, the researchers watched as the children decided among different kinds of teas, snacks, cups, and plates for the tea party, first on their own and then after listening to the choices of other team members.

Sometimes the other team member framed their choice as a matter of personal preference. Other times they presented it as a norm shared by the whole group.

After listening to the choices of others, most of the time the children stuck with their first choice. But 23% of the time the children switched their choice to settle for someone else's. And when they did, they were more likely to go along with the other person when an option was presented as a group norm rather than a mere personal preference.

The pattern held up even when the other person was another child, not an adult, suggesting that the preschoolers weren't simply acting out of a desire to imitate adults or obey authority.

The author says the findings lend support to an idea about how children develop the moral reasoning capacity that sets humans apart from other animals.

PLOS ONE
Source: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0251228
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