Study shows younger children and chimps less likely to make irrational decisions when social comparison is in play

January 9, 2019 by Bob Yirka, Phys.org report
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of researchers affiliated with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Yale University and the University of Göttingen, has found that older children are more likely to make seemingly irrational decisions when social comparison is at play. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, the group describes experiments they carried out with chimps and children of various ages and what they found.

To better understand how social comparison works in humans, the researchers designed an experiment to test the differences between chimpanzees, and .

The experiment involved 96 children between the ages of five and ten, and 15 adult chimpanzees. The subjects chose between two trays of treats as they sat opposite one of their peers. But the trays all came with a set of conditions—treats had to be shared in a certain way. One type of tray would have three treats, the other tray nine. If the child chose the tray with three treats, he or she would get to keep two, while their peer got one. If, on the other hand, they chose the tray with nine treats, they would get three of them, while their peer would get six.

The researchers report that the vast majority of the chimpanzees and children under six chose the tray with more treats on it. Those children over six tended to choose the tray with fewer treats on it.

The researchers suggest their results show an example of irrational thinking by older children due to . All of the children (and the chimps too), regardless of age, knew that they would get more treats (three instead of one) if they chose the tray with nine treats on it. Thus, the logical choice was to pick that one. But the older were more concerned about fair play. They did not like the idea of their peer getting more than them, even if they themselves got less than they could have if they had only chosen the tray with more treats on it.

Explore further: Fractures in children often indicate abuse

More information: Esther Herrmann et al. Human children but not chimpanzees make irrational decisions driven by social comparison, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.2228

Related Stories

Fractures in children often indicate abuse

January 2, 2019

Physical abuse in children often remains undetected. Atypical fractures may indicate such abuse. Everything that doctors should be particularly alert to and aware of in this setting is the subject of an article by Oliver ...

Bone treats a dangerous stocking stuffer for dogs

November 29, 2017

(HealthDay)—Even if he's a good boy, don't put bone treats in your dog's stocking this holiday season because they can pose a serious health risk to your pooch, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns.

Fair Play in Chimpanzees

October 5, 2007

New research from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany shows that unlike humans, chimpanzees conform to traditional economic models. The research, conducted by Keith Jensen, Josep Call ...

Giving makes young children happy, study suggests

June 19, 2012

If it is indeed nobler to give than to receive, it may also make you happier – even if you're a toddler, according to a new study co-authored by three psychologists at the University of British Columbia.

Recommended for you

Can China keep it's climate promises?

March 26, 2019

China can easily meet its Paris climate pledge to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but sourcing 20 percent of its energy needs from renewables and nuclear power by that date may be considerably harder, researchers ...

What happened before the Big Bang?

March 26, 2019

A team of scientists has proposed a powerful new test for inflation, the theory that the universe dramatically expanded in size in a fleeting fraction of a second right after the Big Bang. Their goal is to give insight into ...

Cellular microRNA detection with miRacles

March 26, 2019

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short noncoding regulatory RNAs that can repress gene expression post-transcriptionally and are therefore increasingly used as biomarkers of disease. Detecting miRNAs can be arduous and expensive as ...

In the Tree of Life, youth has its advantages

March 26, 2019

It's a question that has captivated naturalists for centuries: Why have some groups of organisms enjoyed incredibly diversity—like fish, birds, insects—while others have contained only a few species—like humans.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.