Thinking About Other People’s Minds Affects How Children Respond To Unfairness
Lily Tsoi and Katherine McAuliffe: As we expected, children who were good at inferring others’ mental states — what other people were thinking and feeling — were more likely to reject unequal offers of candy that would disadvantage the other child. These children tended to prefer that neither child get any candy rather than to personally get more than the other did, indicating that they were bothered by inequity that disadvantaged others. To our surprise, children who were good at inferring others’ mental states were also more likely to reject unequal offers that put themselves at a disadvantage. We think that the better children are at inferring mental states, the more they think about how the other child would expect things to be fair, and this understanding of the other child’s expectations influences their decisions.