Childish sense of justice manifests itself from the age of 3

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Last reviewed: 16.10.2021

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24 July 2019, 09:00

Starting from a young age, children demonstrate an acute sense of justice. They are ready to do a lot so that a person who shows such an injustice will be punished accordingly, even if the child himself has to sacrifice something for this.

A sense of justice can be brought in a variety of interpretations. Some similar ideas can be seen in the behavior of chimpanzees. The only difference is that the monkeys respond to the presence or absence of justice, if it concerns them personally. As for people, here the feeling spreads in relation to others.

Children already in three years feel and worry if one person offends another. At the same time, the children's desire is aimed not so much at punishing the one who has shown injustice, but at helping the victim.

And yet, is it necessary or not to restore justice? After all, a person who is an offender must be punished - if only so that "it would be disgraceful for others." In some cases, for the triumph of justice, it is necessary to sacrifice something. At what age is the child willing to make such sacrifices? This is difficult enough to understand, but scientists representing the University of New York have noticed that children, starting from 3 or 6 years old, already have the willingness to sacrifice for the sake of justice.

The study involved more than two hundred children aged 3-6 years. All these children were visitors to the city children's museum. Participants were taken to the room where the spiral slide was located: it was allowed to move out of it. The children began to have fun, and after a while they were shown footage with a baby who maliciously spoiled and tore someone else's craft. They explained to the children that this bad girl would soon come to them to ride the hill. Further, the participants were given the following opportunities: write a sign on the slide with the word “closed” or “open”. If it was assumed that the slide would be open, then this meant that everyone could ride with it, including a harmful baby. And the word "closed" meant that no one would ride. It turns out that each child had the opportunity to punish another child for damaging someone else’s crafts by infringing on their own interests.

It turned out that every second child expressed a willingness to sacrifice their entertainment. Among these children there were both three-year-old and six-year-old participants.

After that, the experts decided to determine what factor affects the children's desire to punish the guilty. The children were divided into groups: one of them was told that this girl is the same as them, and even belongs to their group. Other children were told that the girl was a stranger to them. The third category of children was given “special powers” in decision-making by hanging a sheriff’s badge on their chest.

It turned out that the children were more prone to punishment of “strangers”, and the option of “forgiveness” was more often applied to their own. But the additional “power of the sheriff” changed everything: they rather came into their own hands. Researchers attributed this to the fact that an endowed person feels more responsible for “his” people, and he will do everything so that “his” does not offend each other.

Details of the study are published at psycnet.apa.org/record/2019-26829-001?doi=1

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