Many children are willing to make personal sacrifices to punish wrongdoers — and even more so if they believe punishment will teach the transgressor a lesson, a new Yale study published Nov. 23 in the journal Nature Human Behaviour shows.
Philosophers and psychologists have long argued whether the main reason people punish others for bad behavior is to enact retribution or to impart a moral lesson. In adults, most studies show the answer is that people have both motives. But what about children, who are less steeped in societal values?
“Children are less exposed to social ideas about how to behave in certain ways,” said first author Julia Marshall, who conducted the research in the lab of Molly Crockett, assistant professor of psychology at Yale and senior author of the paper. “We wanted to know if children are interested in punishing others because they want wrongdoers to pay, because they