The origins of morality: Developing a society of equals

Colloquium | October 8 | 12-1:30 p.m. | 1102 Berkeley Way West

 Melanie Killen, University of Maryland

 Department of Psychology

Although human societies provide protection from harm and enable the construction of collaborative and mutually beneficial social structures, they also pave the way for social hierarchies that deny equal treatment to certain portions of the population. Developmental science research reveals that children are aware of status and hierarchies, often reject the status quo, and seek to rectify social inequalities, citing concerns of fairness and equal treatment. We have documented a shift from early to middle childhood from a focus on in-group bias and exclusionary practices to concerns for rectifying group-based inequities. Challenging inequalities is costly, however, and we identify the barriers as well as the catalysts. With age, children’s knowledge of groups, theory of mind, and experiences of cross-group friendships enable them to begin to critically evaluate unfair practices, and act on their fairness principles, particularly in peer contexts.