Generosity, the ability to give freely of one's time and resources on the basis of others’ needs at a personal expense, spurs cooperation, sustains social harmony, and saves lives. Although the roots of generosity can be traced back to the second year of life in the form of prosocial behavior (e.g., helping, comforting, and sharing), whether these behaviors are truly driven by other-oriented concerns (i.e., concerns about the needs of others irrespective of the costs to the self), is debated. In particular, the range of needs that children can consider and respond to, and whether and how these needs are balanced against more self-oriented concerns, is not well understood. We propose 8 experiments to investigate the scope of young children’s ability to recognize the needs of others, and to determine how costs to the self affect young children's giving behavior. Our goal is to chart developmental changes and identify predictors of early generosity, as well as to conduct interventions to promote generosity. Determining the factors and circumstances that enhance generosity will foster positive character development, along with societal health and well being. The proposed research will directly address the Big Questions, including how to best support generosity in young children, as well as the means through which generosity is internalized. Concrete deliverables will include peer-reviewed papers, conference and public presentations, and a public talk and parental education session. Our project will have a far-reaching impacts at both a theoretical and practical level. Conceptually, our project will clarify when and how children’s prosocial behavior becomes truly generous, elucidating the early origins of altruism and generosity. Practically, our research will identify how to foster generosity at a critical point in development.
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