Common knowledge that help is needed increases helping behavior in children

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Although there is considerable evidence that at least some helping behavior is motivated by genuine concern for others’ well-being, sometimes we also help solely out of a sense of obligation to the person in need. Our sense of obligation to help may be particularly strong when there is common knowledge between the helper and the helpee that the helpee needs help. To test whether children’s helping behavior is affected by having common knowledge with the recipient about the recipient’s need, 6-year-olds faced a dilemma: They could either collect stickers or help an experimenter. Children were more likely to help when they and the experimenter had common knowledge about the experimenter’s plight (because they heard it together), than when they each had private knowledge about it (they heard it individually). These results suggest that already in young children common knowledge can heighten the sense of obligation to help others in need. .

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2 thoughts on “Common knowledge that help is needed increases helping behavior in children

  1. Aktas, Duygu says:

    Thanks for your discussion and presentation. During the Q and A, testing collective behavior of children in the same setting has been suggested. It made me wonder whether increasing the number of experimenters who needs help would make a difference in children’s responses. For example, if there were more than one person who needs help like two or three injured people in the room in a similar set of experiment, would there be a difference in children’s behavior.
    Thank you again.

  2. Hi, Barbora!

    Unfortunately, my neighbors were noisy due to renovations, so I was unable to ask you a question. I would like to ask, does the concept of reflection matter in the situation you are discussing? After all, when children gain common knowledge about the experimenter plight, they also learn that now everyone knows about it. And this “reflexive knowledge” triggers the mechanism of collective reflection in children, which, possibly, affects their motivation. What do you think about this?

    Sincerely yours,
    Slava

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