One of the most critical developmental achievements is the acquisition of ethics, generosity, and prosocial behavior. To this end, an extensive body of work has now revealed the early emergence of these behaviors in young children. Little is known, however, about exactly how generous behavior is learned, and - more crucially – what benefits generosity may offer to other aspects of young children’s development. We propose a series of five experimental studies aimed to answer these questions. These studies address two general aims: (1) the cognitive prerequisites for generous behavior, and (2) the cognitive and educational benefits of behaving generously.
Because we hope to study both the learning and early emergence of generosity, we target the preschool age as our population of interest. Five experimental studies are proposed: The first set of studies (1-3) in this proposal test the impact of two cognitions on children’s generosity: numerical cognition and counterfactual reasoning. The second set of studies (4-5) look at how, in turn, generosity affects learning outcomes in the domain of mathematical cognition.
Concrete outputs will include at least 7-8 empirical journal publications disseminating the results of this research to scientific audiences in the fields of cognitive and developmental psychology, and 1-2 theoretical review articles communicating the findings to a broader audience within psychology and philosophy. Moreover, we will disseminate findings on generosity through creating a bi-annual newsletter summarizing our main findings to participating preschool practitioners, parents, and educators.
Outcomes include bridging the fields of social and cognitive development, training a new community of scholars in conducting empirical research on early-developing generosity, and connecting scientific audiences with parents, educators, and practitioners. This research aims to uncover how to best foster generosity in early childhood.