Modeling social norms increasingly influences costly sharing in middle childhood

Bailey House, Michael Tomasello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prosocial and normative behavior emerges in early childhood, but substantial changes in prosocial behavior in middle childhood may be due to it becoming integrated with children’s understanding of what is normative. Here we show that information about what is normative begins influencing children’s costly sharing in middle childhood in a sample of 6- to 11-year-old German children. Information about what is normative was most influential when indicating what was “right” (i.e., “The right thing is to choose this”). It was less influential when indicating what was prescribed by a rule (i.e., “There is a rule that says to choose this”) or when it indicated what the majority of people do (i.e., “Most people choose this”). These findings support the idea that middle childhood is when social norms begin to shape children’s costly sharing and provide insight into the psychological foundations of the relationship between norms and prosocial behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)84-98
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Early online date20 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Costly sharing
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Middle childhood
  • Norm psychology
  • Norm priming
  • Social norms

Cite this