Native Amazonian children forego egalitarianism in merit-based tasks when they learn to count
Author(s)Jara-Ettinger, Julian; Kidd, Celeste; Piantadosi, Steve; Gibson, Edward A.
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Cooperation often results in a final material resource that must be shared, but deciding how to distribute that resource is not straightforward. A distribution could count as fair if all members receive an equal reward (egalitarian distributions), or if each member's reward is proportional to their merit (merit-based distributions). Here, we propose that the acquisition of numerical concepts influences how we reason about fairness. We explore this possibility in the Tsimane’, a farming-foraging group who live in the Bolivian rainforest. The Tsimane’ learn to count in the same way children from industrialized countries do, but at a delayed and more variable timeline, allowing us to de-confound number knowledge from age and years in school. We find that Tsimane’ children who can count produce merit-based distributions, while children who cannot count produce both merit-based and egalitarian distributions. Our findings establish that the ability to count – a non-universal, language-dependent, cultural invention – can influence social cognition.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Jara-Ettinger, Julian, Edward Gibson, Celeste Kidd, and Steve Piantadosi. “Native Amazonian Children Forego Egalitarianism in Merit-Based Tasks When They Learn to Count.” Dev Sci (October 2015): n/a–n/a.
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