Social psychology colloquium by Katherine McAuliffe, Thursday March 18, 4PM

Fairness norm enforcement in childhood

Katherine McAuliffe is an assistant professor of psychology at Boston College where she directs the Cooperation Lab and co-directs the Boston College Virtue Project. Her past work has focused on how children across societies acquire and enforce norms of cooperation, with a particular focus on children’s emerging understanding of fairness. More recently she has begun to study the psychology of virtue from a developmental and cross-cultural perspective, specifically investigating the mechanisms that promote honesty, fairness, forgiveness and trustworthiness in children and adults alike. She complements these lines of work with a comparative approach, examining how nonhuman animals solve cooperative dilemmas. More info here:


Fairness is an important part of our cooperative lives. Adults across societies are willing to pay to uphold fairness norms and to punish those who refuse to uphold them. In this presentation, I will discuss work showing that children, too, punish in these contexts. Specifically, I will discuss a set of studies that examines when and under what conditions children across cultures punish others as third parties. From these studies, I will focus on four main findings: (1) costly third-party punishment emerges relatively early in development in the USA, appearing around the age of 6; (2) like adults, children show cross-societal variation in third-party punishment; (3) children are motivated more by retributive than restorative concerns and (4) children become less selfish in response to third-party punishment. I’ll end by describing a new line of work on the cross-cultural development of virtue. Together, these studies demonstrate that children show surprising sophistication in their emerging ability to behave fairly and to promote fairness in others.”

The colloquium takes place online and all are welcome to attend!

  • Date: Thursday March 18 2021
  • Time: 4 to 5 PM
  • Where: Direct link
  • Meeting ID: 948 3453 1169
  • Passcode: 214345
  • Host: Daniel Balliet