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Egalitarian Envy: Cross-cultural Variation in the Development of Envy in Children

Author

Listed:
  • Kirsten Häger

    () (Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

  • Bastiaan Oud

    () (University of Zurich)

  • Daniel Schunk

    () (University of Zurich and University of Mainz)

Abstract

While envy has been studied extensively in adults, the question how envy develops during childhood has not received much attention. To address this gap, we report the results of an artefactual field experiment that investigates and compares the prevalence and development of destructive envy in children aged seven to ten. The experiment took place in the children's natural environment - their schools. We also checked for cultural variability of our results by conducting our study with German children and with children from a highly egalitarian society: the Eastern Penan of northern Borneo. We found that envious behavior was prevalent already at a young age, even when it was costly. An egalitarian upbringing did not appear to mitigate this prevalence. Furthermore, we found strong evidence of cultural variability in the development of envy in children. For instance, in contrast with the German sample, gender was not associated with envy in the Penan sample and the age pattern of envy differed across our two groups. Together, this suggests that there does not appear to be a straightforward relationship between the development of envy and the natural development of the human mind with age, e.g. through better mentalizing ability. Rather, the acquisition pattern of envy is modulated by socio-cultural context. Further research is needed to identify what, then, drives the development of envy during childhood.

Suggested Citation

  • Kirsten Häger & Bastiaan Oud & Daniel Schunk, 2012. "Egalitarian Envy: Cross-cultural Variation in the Development of Envy in Children," Jena Economic Research Papers 2012-059, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
  • Handle: RePEc:jrp:jrpwrp:2012-059
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Bügelmayer, Elisabeth & Katharina Spiess, C., 2014. "Spite and cognitive skills in preschoolers," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 154-167.
    2. Catherine Eckel & Philip Grossman & Cathleen Johnson & Angela Oliveira & Christian Rojas & Rick Wilson, 2012. "School environment and risk preferences: Experimental evidence," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 45(3), pages 265-292, December.
    3. Bucher-Koenen, Tabea & Schmidt, Carsten, 2011. "Time (In)Consistent Food Choice of Children and Teenagers," MEA discussion paper series 11251, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    artefactual field experiment; children; envy; egalitarianism; Germany; Penan; Malaysia;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C99 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Other

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