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Development of Other-Regarding Preferences in Children and Adolescents

Katrin John

Other-regarding preferences, hence appreciation of others’ welfare, are mainly culturally transmitted, whereby most of the development takes place in the sensitive period of childhood and adolescence. This work analyzes the development as well as possible influencing factors of other-regarding preferences during this period. To test the hypotheses derived from developmental and socialization aspects, the author conducts a survey measuring altruistic and cooperative preferences for German pupils. Results show that over the age span studied altruism and cooperation are increasingly important. Individual differences show none or only small relationship with measures of other-regarding preferences while differences in school environments are similarly important to age differences.

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Appendix A Experiment Course and Instructions


Experiments took place in classrooms where each pupil sat down at a table turned towards the wall or window. Tables were separated with the help of large boards or with baffles so that participants could make their decisions unobserved. Each table had a number to assign pairs in the dictator game. Experiment sessions took approximately 45 minutes including two dictator games and one public goods game.20

General Instructions:

“Please sit down at any place and put your identity card next to the number you find at your desk. Then you can turn towards the middle. You can keep all things in your bag, you don’t need them, the desks shall be empty. Please be quiet so that I can tell you what we will do now. We play five (three) little games.21 This will take approximately 45 minutes. During the games you can earn money. You get the money at the end of each of the games. How much money you earn depends on the decisions you make during the games. Your participation is voluntary. The games do not require any specific skills such as cunning, knowledge or quickness.

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