Precocious prosociality: Why do young children help?

  • Warneken F
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Abstract

Human prosociality is marked by the versatil- ity with which we help across various contexts. New research highlights that this capacity emerges early in human ontogeny. In this article, I review evidence show- ing that young children’s helping is both flexible and robust, based upon inferential social-cognitive capacities and prosocial motivations. Then I discuss the possible evo- lutionary function of helping skills as an early-emerging trait. I use evolutionary theory and anthropological evi- dence to support the hypothesis that children’s helping affects adult subsistence in traditional societies and argue that evolution thus might have favored an early develop- mental onset of these behaviors.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Altruism
  • Cooperation
  • Empathy
  • Evolution
  • Prosocial behavior

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