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Volume 7 Issue 2 (July 1998), Pages no-no, 143-272

The Cognitive Basis of Future‐oriented Prosocial Behavior (pages 198-218)

Two experiments examined the development of future‐oriented prosocial behavior in relation to developing theory of mind and executive functioning. Children from 3;0 to 4;6 were given a series of trials in which they had to make a choice between immediate and delayed sticker rewards, where these rewards accrued either to self, to a play partner, or were shared. They also were presented with standard theory of mind tasks (in Experiment 1) assessing the understanding of belief and desire and an executive function task (in Experiment 2) in which the children had to inhibit pointing to a baited box in order to win the cookie within. Results showed that for 4‐year‐olds, the tendency to opt for delayed rewards in order to share with the partner was correlated with theory of mind. For younger 3‐year‐olds, the children's ability to inhibit pointing to the baited box was significantly correlated with the tendency to choose delayed over immediate sticker rewards. These results indicate that children's ability to show future‐oriented prosocial or sharing behavior is linked developmentally both to the ability to imagine conflicting noncurrent mental states and the ability to inhibit responding to perceptually salient events.

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