Humans are unique in their propensity for helping. Not only do we help others in need by reacting to their requests, we also help proactively by assisting in the absence of a request. Proactive helping requires the actor to detect the need for help, recognize the intention of the other, and remedy the situation. Very little is known about the development of this social phenomenon beyond an urban, industrialized setting. We examined helping in nineteen two- to five-year old children in small-scale rural villages of Vanuatu. In the experimental condition, the intentions of the experimenter were made salient, whereas in the control condition they were ambiguous. Children helped more often in the experimental compared to the control condition, suggesting that the propensity to monitor others’ goals and act accordingly can be detected in different cultural contexts.
Aime H, Broesch T, Aknin LB, Warneken F (2017) Evidence for proactive and reactive helping in two- to five-year-olds from a small-scale society. PLoS ONE 12(11): e0187787. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0187787.
Evidence for proactive and reactive helping in two- to five-year-olds from a small-scale society
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