Week13_Warneken&Tomasello_2008 - Developmental...

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Extrinsic Rewards Undermine Altruistic Tendencies in 20-Month-Olds Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology The current study investigated the influence of rewards on very young children’s helping behavior. After 20-month-old infants received a material reward during a treatment phase, they subsequently were less likely to engage in further helping during a test phase as compared with infants who had previously received social praise or no reward at all. This so-called overjustification effect suggests that even the earliest helping behaviors of young children are intrinsically motivated and that socialization practices involving extrinsic rewards can undermine this tendency. Keywords: altruism, helping, intrinsic motivation, socialization, overjustification effect Supplemental materials: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0013860.supp Since at least the time of Rousseau and Locke, there has been debate about the nature of human altruism. Do people go out of their way to help others because they are inherently altruistic or because they are shaped by their social environments to be that way? In terms of more modern psychological concepts, we may ask whether human altruism is intrinsically or extrinsically moti- vated; that is, do human beings help one another because the helpful act itself is inherently rewarding or only because the helpful act is instrumental in bringing about separate outcomes such as material rewards or the avoidance of punishment? Relevant to this debate is recent research that has found that very young children—at the end of the infancy period—both understand helping as a distinct psychological act (Kuhlmeier, Wynn, & Bloom, 2003) and also have a tendency to help them- selves. Warneken and Tomasello (2006, 2007) found that infants as young as 14–18 months of age readily help other people with their problems across many occasions and in the absence of rewards. Warneken, Hare, Melis, Hanus, and Tomasello (2007) found that the provision of material rewards is not necessary to elicit this helping and does not seem to increase children’s ten- dency to help in the immediate context. The fact that humans display these behaviors at such an early age suggests that altruism does not originate in socialization practices alone since 14-month- olds have had very few opportunities to be rewarded for helping or to be urged to help, thus challenging the view that humans begin life focused solely on their own benefits and develop altruistic behaviors only because they are externally rewarded for doing so (Bar-Tal, 1982; Cialdini, Baumann, & Kenrick, 1981; Dovidio, Piliavin, Schroeder, & Penner, 2006). Rather, these findings sug- gest that very early in development humans might have an intrinsic motivation to act altruistically at least in some circumstances (Eisenberg, 1992; Eisenberg, Fabes, & Spinrad, 2006).
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This note was uploaded on 10/28/2009 for the course HD 2610 taught by Professor Mikels,j. during the Fall '07 term at Cornell.

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Week13_Warneken&Tomasello_2008 - Developmental...

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