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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Do children interpret costs as signals of commitment to groups?


We explore whether younger children (4- and 5-year-olds) and older children (9- and 10-year-olds) expect a costly signaler (someone who engages in a costly action) to be a more committed group member than someone who engages in a comparatively less costly action. In Experiment 1 (N=173), older children and adults—but not younger children—expect a costly signaler wants to be in a group more than a control, and they give more positive evaluations of the costly signaler than the control. In Experiment 2 (N=84; ongoing), employing a different manipulation of cost both younger and older children infer that a costly signaler wants their goal more than the control, but they make different evaluations of the costly signaler depending on whether they exerted effort on behalf of a group versus an individual. Future research may be needed to rule out alternative explanations.

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