Young Children Believe Intervening In Antisocial Behaviour Is A Universal Duty. Adults Don’t

Research Digest

By Emily Reynolds

When witnessing harmful behaviour, most of us hope for intervention of some kind: if we see someone receiving abuse on public transport, for example, it’s likely we want to see some action taken.

Who we want to intervene in such acts, however, is more divisive. Some believe social norms should be enforced by authorities, whilst others stress that responsibility should be shared amongst us all. An interesting example of this is the discussion around policing, with abolitionists arguing that much of the work done by the police would be better led by communities themselves.

Our politics may inform our stance — and according to a new study in Cognition from Julia Marshall and colleagues at Yale University, so might our age. The team finds that older children and adults tend to see norm enforcement as the responsibility of authorities, while younger children see that duty as universal.

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