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  • 1 Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK
  • 2 Department of Psychology, Glasgow Caledonian University, 70 Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 3PY, UK
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Abstract

This study investigates the early understanding of the emotional consequences involved in the violation and the completion of bilateral agreements between peers. Three- and four-year-old children listened to stories in which two characters agreed to an exchange of mutual benefit (a bargain) involving a conditional rule. They were then presented with 4 pictures as the alternative choices of the exchange outcome that would match a given emotional reaction by the characters. In order to choose the right picture, children had to track back the social antecedents of the characters’ feelings following either a violation or a completion of their agreement. Results show that young children are very accurate in inferring that: (1) being upset is the outcome for the victim of cheating in an agreement violation, (2)’ happiness’ (satisfaction) on both parties is the outcome of an agreement completion. These findings reveal an early understanding of the emotional consequences of social exchanges that parallels their early understanding of violations and completions of bilateral agreements. More generally, they suggest that, from its onset, the understanding of social exchange by humans may recruit both their reasoning resources as “natural psychologists” (their mindreading system) and their reasoning skills as “negotiators” (their specialized mechanisms for cheating detection).

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No Evolutionist is an Island

A review of Kevin N. Laland and Gillian R. Brown (2011) Sense and Nonsense. Evolutionary perspectives of human behaviour Oxford: Oxford University Press. 270 pages, ISBN: 978-0-19-958696-7