Children’s respect for ownership across diverse societies
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Ownership is a cornerstone of many human societies and can be understood as a cooperative arrangement, where individuals refrain from taking each other’s property. Owners can thus trust others to respect their property even in their absence. We investigated this principle in 5- to 7-year-olds (N = 152) from 4 diverse societies. Children participated in a resource task with a peer-partner, where we established ownership by assigning children to one side or the other of an apparatus and by marking resources with colors to help children keep track of them. When retrieving resources in the partner’s presence, the majority of children took their own things and respected what belonged to their partner. A proportion of children in all societies also respected ownership in their partner’s absence, although the strength of respect varied considerably across societies. We discuss implications for the development of ownership concepts and possible explanations for societal differences.
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