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Infants’ understanding of distributive fairness

Research project
Inactive research
Project period
2011 - 2014
Project owner
Department of Psychology

Financier
ERC and Forte

Short description

Several aspects of infants’ prosocial behaviours such as helping, comforting, sharing, cooperating and informing have been the focus of experimental research in recent years. Our studies add to this line of research by targeting preverbal infants’ sensitivity to various principles of fairness.

About the project

Several aspects of infants’ prosocial behaviours such as helping, comforting, sharing, cooperating and informing have been the focus of experimental research in recent years. Our studies add to this line of research by targeting preverbal infants’ sensitivity to various principles of fairness.

In one of our earliest studies we demonstrated that 10-month-olds expected distributions of resources in a very simple context to follow the principle of equality. We have later extended these findings by demonstrating that infants not only expect equal distributions but also evaluate distributors differently based on their actions.

Further research suggests that infants’ sense of fairness might be even more complex than understanding the concept of equality, and that they are able to consider context sensitive information. For instance, we have demonstrated that infants do not merely encode distributive actions based on the outcome of the distributions, but are also able to consider the intentions of the distributors whose actions lead to these outcomes. Together these findings uncover remarkably complex abilities of reasoning about fairness in young infants.

Publications

Strid, K. & Meristo, M. (2020). Infants consider the distributor’s intentions in resource allocation. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 596213. 

Surian, L., Ueno, M., Itakura, S., & Meristo, M. (2018). Do infants attribute moral traits? Fourteen-month-olds’ expectations of fairness are affected by agents' antisocial actions. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1649. 

Meristo, M., Strid, K. & Surian, L. (2016). Preverbal infants’ ability to encode the outcome of distributive actions. Infancy, 21, 353-372. 

Meristo, M. & Surian, L. (2014). Infants’ distinguish antisocial actions directed towards fair and unfair agents. PLoS ONE, 9(10): e110553. 

Meristo, M. & Surian, L. (2013). Do infants detect indirect reciprocity? Cognition, 129, 102-113.

More information

The project is carried out within the Gothenburg AMBLE, Infant and Child Laboratory (INCH) at the Department of Psychology.