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Early Understanding of Merit in Turkana Children

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Abstract Fairness has been identified as a psychological adaptation to share the benefits of cooperation: unfair agents disproportionately favoring their own interests indeed decrease their chance of being recruited in future collaborations. Given the potential benefits of cooperation, it has been argued that fairness should become functional early in ontogeny as the child acquires more independence and expands her social network and collaborations. More importantly, fairness should appear universally, independently of the specific cultural settings. We study the distribution of the benefits of a collective action in five-year-old children in a non-western tribal society, the Turkana of Kenya. Our results reveal that Turkana children demonstrate a clear understanding of merit and that they take individuals’ contribution into account when distributing a resource collectively produced.


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