Children express preferences for a wide range of options, such as objects, and frequently observe the preferences that others express towards these things. However, little is know about how these initial preferences develop. The present research investigated whether one particular type of social information – other children’s preferences – influences children’s own preferences. Four-year-old children observed, via video, two boys and two girls display the same preference for one of two stickers. Each child (peer) expressed liking for one sticker and dislike for the other. Then children completed two rounds of the Dictator Game, a classic resource distribution task. In each round, children distributed either 10 liked stickers or 10 disliked stickers (counterbalanced) between themselves and another child who was not present. If the preferences expressed by their peers influenced children’s own preferences, children should keep more of the liked than disliked stickers for themselves. In line with this prediction, more children kept more liked than disliked stickers, indicating their distribution patterns were influenced by their peers’ preferences. This finding suggests that children extracted informational content about the value of the stickers from their peers and used that information to guide their own preferences. Children might also have aligned their preferences with those of their peers to facilitate social bonding and group membership. This research demonstrates the strong influence of peers on children’s developing preferences, and reveals the effect of peer influence via video – a medium that young children are frequently exposed to but often struggle to learn from in other contexts.
Hennefield, Laura and Markson, Lori, "Four-year-old Children Align their Preferences with those of their Peers DataSet" (2017). Digital Research Materials (Data & Supplemental files). 7.