Kids choose fairness over chocolate 'until they think no one is watching'

Girl with child

Children, who have much more of a sense of fairness than they are given credit for, can actually have a strange "obsession" with it, researchers say.

In an experiment conducted by a Yale psychology professor, young children regularly chose the fairest option when presented with a scenario involving the division of chocolate bars.

The child and an imaginary friend were each given two chocolates and the test subject was asked to decide who should get the fifth - most opted to throw it in the bin.

When asked why, one of the children replied "If it's not equal, then it's not fair because one person will get less and one person will get one more."

The researchers described it as "a gorgeous finding" because it indicated that children develop an appreciation for morality and selflessness from a very early age.

However, the findings became less clear cut when the test was altered to see what happened when the adults turned their back.

In the second part, two chocolates were placed in an envelope for the imaginary friend and one in the participating child's envelope.

After the researcher pretended they had to leave the room, another adult came in and slipped a second chocolate into the test subject's envelope, evening up the distribution.

The researcher then re-enters and asks the child who should get the "fourth" chocolate, which is actually now the fifth.

Knowing they may not be found out, the children were faced with a much bigger moral dilemma.

While some did own up, a far greater number decided to take the extra chocolate to give them an unfair amount of sweets.

"What we found was that when the kids think the experimenter doesn't know, they will take the extra chocolate bar," the Daily Mail quoted Shari Finkelstein, the producer of CBSNews' 60 Minutes, which reported on the study, as saying.

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