Private and public decisions in social dilemmas: evidences from children's behavior

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Are selfish impulses less likely to be pursued when decisions are publicly observable? Is the presence of peers a potential solution to social dilemmas? In this paper we report data on the self-control decisions of children aged 6 to 11 who participated in games that require one to resist a selfish impulse for several minutes in order to benefit others. In Public Condition children make decisions in public view of the group of other participants, while in Private Condition they have the possibility to decide privately. We find that children aged 9 and higher are better able to resist selfish impulses in public environments. Younger children, however, display no such effect. Further, we find self-control substantially impacted by group size. When decisions are public, self-control is better in larger groups, while in private condition the opposite holds.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number8
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2012

ID: 40432728