What Makes Kids Generous? Neuroscience Has Some Answers.

It’s no secret that people are judgmental, and young children are no exception. When children witness “good” or “bad” behavior, their brains show an immediate emotional response. But, according to a study appearing in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on December 18, it takes more than that kind of automatic moral evaluation for kids to act with generosity and share their stickers.

By recording kids’ brain activity, the study found that generous behavior requires a controlled thought process. The neurodevelopmental findings are the first to link implicit moral evaluations to actual moral behavior and to identify the specific neural markers of each, the developmental neuroscientists say. “Moral evaluation in preschool children, similar to adults, is complex and constructed from both emotion and cognition,” says Jean Decety, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Chicago. “However, we found that only differences in neural markers of the latter predict actual generosity.”

The study may offer useful insight for parents this holiday season looking for their children to join in the spirit of giving, Decety suggests. “These findings provide an interesting idea that by encouraging children to reflect upon the moral behavior of others, we may be able to foster generosity,” he said.

Read the full article here.

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