top of page



What motivates people to behave fairly?

How people decide what rules can and cannot justify inequality?


This line of work attempts to understand adults' and children’s sense of fairness, examining the many factors that influence how people share resources with others.


Specifically, we investigate how impartial procedures can be used to allocate resources more efficiently and increase people’s satisfaction with resource allocation. We are also interested in how people decide what rules can and cannot justify inequality.


In one recent line of work, done in collaboration with colleagues at UChicago Booth School of Business, we have begun to explore children's intuitions about trading and what constitutes a "fair" trade.

We have found that children as young as 5-years-old are able to use what they know about another party's preferences (e.g., that someone likes chocolates more than cookies) to maximize gains through trade (e.g., trading two chocolates, which the other party prefers, to get three cookies).


What obligations do we have to our friends?

What are the cues that adults and children use to track who is friends with whom?

What happens when our friendship obligations conflict with our moral obligations?


We have recently begun to investigate children’s emerging understanding of friendship and how this shapes the way they interpret interactions with others.


For example, in one set of studies, we have examined children's reasoning about the obligations of friends in situations of conflict. 

So far, we've found that, as children age, they increasingly expect their friends to take their side in conflicts. They also, interestingly, view their friend choosing not to take sides (i.e., remaining neutral) as negatively as they view their friend taking another person's side.


When do children begin to understand that they and others have reputations?

How do they use others’ reputations to make predictions about their behaviors?


In this research we examine how adults and children manage their reputations and make judgments about others who manipulate their reputation through boasting, falsely claiming credit, and other strategic behaviors aimed at bolstering one’s own reputation.

One ongoing project in this area is examining children's predictions for individuals who want others to think they are smart vs. individuals who actually want to be smart.


So far, we have found that, with age, children expect someone with concerns for appearing smart is more likely to lie about failing a test or avoid seeking help in public (but not in private).


Current work is exploring whether children expect someone with such reputational motives to be less likely to engage in prosocial lying about their successful achievement outcomes.


Interested in having your child participate in our studies? Go to our Parents Page

bottom of page