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Should we vote on it? Investigating children’s use of majority rules decision-making

Voting is a common way for people to make all sorts of decisions, but do kids think groups should be able to vote to decide anything? We recently explored whether children believe majorities should be able to make decisions on three different types of decisions: moral decisions, truth decisions, and preference decisions.

We told 4–9 year-old children stories about kids in a classroom making decisions about the class pet. They were asked if the kids in the classroom should be allowed to vote on a matter of preference (e.g., voting to name this rabbit Blossom or Buttons?), matter of fact (e.g., voting if this animal is a hamster or a rabbit?), or a matter of morality (e.g., voting on whether to feed this rabbit to the snake next door?).

By the time they are 4-years-old, children show a pattern similar to adults in previous work: they think that voting is much more acceptable for matters of preference than matters of fact or morality. That is, they believe that although students can vote on what to name the rabbit, they shouldn’t vote on whether to harm the rabbit or on whether the rabbit is a hamster. These results demonstrate that young children endorse voting as a way of making some decisions while understanding that there are some matters that shouldn’t be voted on.

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