Review Article

The developmental foundations of human fairness

  • Nature Human Behaviour 1, Article number: 0042 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41562-016-0042
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Abstract

New behavioural and neuroscientific evidence on the development of fairness behaviours demonstrates that the signatures of human fairness can be traced into childhood. Children make sacrifices for fairness (1) when they have less than others, (2) when others have been unfair and (3) when they have more than others. The latter two responses mark a critical departure from what is observed in other species because they enable fairness to be upheld even when doing so goes against self-interest. This new work can be fruitfully combined with insights from cognitive neuroscience to understand the mechanisms of developmental change.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank J. Greene, B. Güroğlu, D. Knoch, L. Somerville, and L. Young for their feedback on this review. N.S. is supported by an Early Career Research Fellowship from the Jacobs Foundation. F.W. is supported by an NSF CAREER grant.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts 02467, USA.

    • Katherine McAuliffe
  2. Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.

    • Peter R. Blake
  3. Department of Developmental Psychology, Leiden University, Leiden 2333AK, The Netherlands.

    • Nikolaus Steinbeis
  4. Department of Social Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig 04103, Germany.

    • Nikolaus Steinbeis
  5. Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.

    • Felix Warneken

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Katherine McAuliffe.