Presentation Title

The Development of Sensitivity to Social Context in Partner Choice

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Justin Martin, Dr. Katherine McAuliffe

Start Date

23-11-2019 10:45 AM

End Date

23-11-2019 11:00 AM

Location

Markstein 301

Session

oral 2

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

behavioral_social_sciences

Abstract

An important mechanism that supports human cooperation is partner choice, or the ability to avoid bad partners and find better ones. When deciding whether or not to continue interacting with a partner, adults are especially sensitive to social context: they tolerate unfair behavior to the degree that alternative partners (their outside options) are equally bad. However, past work has not explored how this sensitivity to the quality of outside options emerges in development. The present study seeks to address this gap. Forty-six children from ages 5 to 8 (twenty 5&6-year-olds and twenty-six 7&8-year-olds) participated in an economic game in which, for each of eight trials, they were paired up with a default partner. They were told how their partner had played in a prior round of the Dictator Game, with partners varying in how fairly they had allocated resources. Participants could play another round of the game with their default partner or switch to a randomly selected partner from their outside options of 5 individuals. For those assigned to the Good condition, most of their partners had played fairly previously, whereas most had played unfairly in the Bad condition. Children were additionally orthogonally assigned to either the Costly condition (in which switching to a new partner costed a resource) or the Non-Costly condition (in which switching was free). We found no difference in switching behavior between the good and bad outside options conditions in younger children’s decisions. Older children exhibited a more adult-like pattern: they were more willing to pay a cost when outside options were good. Overall, we found that as children age, they become more sensitive to outside options, and are more willing to pay a cost to find a better partner.

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Nov 23rd, 10:45 AM Nov 23rd, 11:00 AM

The Development of Sensitivity to Social Context in Partner Choice

Markstein 301

An important mechanism that supports human cooperation is partner choice, or the ability to avoid bad partners and find better ones. When deciding whether or not to continue interacting with a partner, adults are especially sensitive to social context: they tolerate unfair behavior to the degree that alternative partners (their outside options) are equally bad. However, past work has not explored how this sensitivity to the quality of outside options emerges in development. The present study seeks to address this gap. Forty-six children from ages 5 to 8 (twenty 5&6-year-olds and twenty-six 7&8-year-olds) participated in an economic game in which, for each of eight trials, they were paired up with a default partner. They were told how their partner had played in a prior round of the Dictator Game, with partners varying in how fairly they had allocated resources. Participants could play another round of the game with their default partner or switch to a randomly selected partner from their outside options of 5 individuals. For those assigned to the Good condition, most of their partners had played fairly previously, whereas most had played unfairly in the Bad condition. Children were additionally orthogonally assigned to either the Costly condition (in which switching to a new partner costed a resource) or the Non-Costly condition (in which switching was free). We found no difference in switching behavior between the good and bad outside options conditions in younger children’s decisions. Older children exhibited a more adult-like pattern: they were more willing to pay a cost when outside options were good. Overall, we found that as children age, they become more sensitive to outside options, and are more willing to pay a cost to find a better partner.