Spite and Cognitive Skills in Preschoolers

SOEPpapers 404, 32 S.

Elisabeth Bügelmayer, C. Katharina Spieß


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Although spiteful preferences play a crucial role in the development of human large-scale cooperation, there is little evidence on spiteful behavior and its determinants in children. We investigate the relationship between children's cognitive skills and spiteful behavior in a sample of 214 preschoolers aged 5-6 and their mothers. Other-regarding behavior of both mothers and children is elicited through four simple allocation decisions. A key advantage of our study is that it is carried out in a household context. Therefore, we have information about both the child's and mother's cognitive and noncognitive skills as well as health and household characteristics. We find that higher cognitive skills are associated with more spiteful behavior in children. This relationship is even more pronounced among boys and possibly reflects differences in competitiveness. Moreover, we find further gender differences depending on the measure of cognitive skills and the degree of spite. These results shed light on the determinants of the development of other-regarding preferences in humans.

C. Katharina Spieß

Abteilungsleiterin in der Abteilung Bildung und Familie

Themen: Gender, Familie, Bildung

JEL-Classification: C90;C99;D3;J24
Keywords: Spite, other-regarding preferences, cognitive skills, child experiments, household survey studies
Frei zugängliche Version: (econstor)