Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 12 February 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00093

“I pick you”: the impact of fairness and race on infants’ selection of social partners

  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  • 2Center for Child and Family Well-being, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

By 15 months of age infants are sensitive to violations of fairness norms as assessed via their enhanced visual attention to unfair versus fair outcomes in violation-of-expectation paradigms. The current study investigated whether 15-month-old infants select social partners on the basis of prior fair versus unfair behavior, and whether infants integrate social selections on the basis of fairness with the race of the distributors and recipients involved in the exchange. Experiment 1 demonstrated that after witnessing one adult distribute toys to two recipients fairly (2:2 distribution), and another adult distribute toys to two recipients unfairly (1:3 distribution), Caucasian infants selected fair over unfair distributors when both distributors were Caucasian; however, this preference was not present when the fair actor was Asian and the unfair actor was Caucasian. In Experiment 2, when fairness, the race of the distributor, and the race of the recipients were fully crossed, Caucasian infants’ social selections varied as a function of the race of the recipient advantaged by the unfair distributor. Specifically, infants were more likely to select the fair distributor when the unfair recipient advantaged the Asian (versus the Caucasian) recipient. These findings provide evidence that infants select social partners on the basis of prior fair behavior and that infants also take into account the race of distributors and recipients when making their social selections.

Keywords: fairness, race, social partners, social selections, resource distribution

Citation: Burns MP and Sommerville JA (2014) “I pick you”: the impact of fairness and race on infants’ selection of social partners. Front. Psychol. 5:93. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00093

Received: 28 October 2013; Accepted: 23 January 2014;
Published online: 12 February 2014.

Edited by:

Amanda Williams, Dalhousie University, Canada

Reviewed by:

Valerie Kuhlmeier, Queen’s University, Canada
Jesse Drummond, University of Pittsburgh, USA

Copyright © 2014 Burns and Sommerville. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Jessica A. Sommerville, Center for Child and Family Well-being, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Campus Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195, USA e-mail: sommej@uw.edu

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