Young children police group members at personal cost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Humans' evolutionary success has depended in part on their willingness to punish, at personal cost, bad actors who have not harmed them directly-a behavior known as costly third-party punishment. The present studies examined the psychological processes underlying this behavior from a developmental perspective, using a novel, naturalistic method. In these studies (ages 3-6, total N = 225), participants of all ages enacted costly punishment, and rates of punishment increased with age. In addition, younger children (ages 3-4), when in a position of authority, were more likely to punish members of their own group, whereas older children (ages 5-6) showed no group- or authority-based differences. These findings demonstrate the developmental emergence of costly punishment, and show how a sense of authority can foster the kind of group-regulatory behavior that costly punishment may have evolved to serve.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-191
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Cooperation
  • Development
  • Fairness
  • Reputation
  • Third-party punishment
  • Age Factors
  • Child Behavior/psychology
  • Humans
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Male
  • Group Processes
  • Social Behavior
  • Punishment/psychology
  • Female
  • Child

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Young children police group members at personal cost'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this