Do 7-year-old children understand social leverage?



Sánchez-Amaro A, Duguid S, Call J & Tomasello M (2020) Do 7-year-old children understand social leverage?. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 199, Art. No.: 104963.

Individuals with an advantageous position during a negotiation possess leverage over their partners. Several studies with adults have investigated how leverage can influence the coordination strategies of individuals when conflicts of interest arise. In this study, we explored how pairs of 7-year-old children solved a coordination game (based on the Snowdrift scenario) when one child had leverage over the other child. We presented a social dilemma in the form of an unequal reward distribution on a rotating tray. The rotating tray could be accessed by both children. The child who waited longer to act received the best outcome, but if both children waited too long, they would lose the rewards. In addition, one child could forgo the access to the rotating tray for an alternative option—the leverage. Although children rarely used their leverage strategically, children with access to the alternative were less likely to play the social dilemma, especially when their leverage was larger. Furthermore, children waited longer to act as the leverage decreased. Finally, children almost never failed to coordinate. The results hint to a trade-off between maximizing benefits while maintaining long-term collaboration in complex scenarios where strategies such as turn taking are hard to implement.

Leverage; Conflict of interest; Cooperation; Children

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology: Volume 199

Publication date30/11/2020
Publication date online31/08/2020
Date accepted by journal18/07/2020
PublisherAcademic Press

People (1)


Dr Alejandro Sanchez Amaro

Dr Alejandro Sanchez Amaro

Lecturer in Psychology, Psychology