146 Costly Choices

Based on research by Chernyak, Nadia., & Tamar Kushnir, T. 2013, written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Can we promote positive social behaviors in preschool children?

Psychologists Nadia Chernyak and Tamar Kushnir evaluated three and four year olds to understand what motivates them to share. Children were given a choice to keep and play with a toy for themselves or share it with others who might be sad (attempting to elicit the child’s compassion).  Sometimes the toy had little value or a greater value fun toy (thus a more costly choice to share it).  Or, they would just be told to share the toy and thus not be initiating their own choice.  Which of these conditions or choices would make a difference in the likelihood of sharing in the future? While most of the children shared the less valued item, those who made the costly choice previously were more likely to share the valued “Froggie” toy with others.  These results indicate that giving children the opportunity to make costly choices when encouraged to share helps promote later positive sharing.

Encourage your children to make thoughtful choices to help others.   Let them feel responsible for resulting good feelings from self-pride, your praise, or the recipient’s gratitude.  This will lead to future sharing and helping.


Chernyak, N., & Kushnir, T. (2013). Giving preschoolers choice increases sharing behavior. Psychological science, 0956797613482335.

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