Cognitive Processing

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 301–307

The role of inhibition in young children’s altruistic behaviour

  • David Aguilar-Pardo
  • Rosario Martínez-Arias
  • Fernando Colmenares
Short Report

DOI: 10.1007/s10339-013-0552-6

Cite this article as:
Aguilar-Pardo, D., Martínez-Arias, R. & Colmenares, F. Cogn Process (2013) 14: 301. doi:10.1007/s10339-013-0552-6


By behaving altruistically, individuals voluntarily reduce their benefits in order to increase their partners’. This deviation from a self-interest-maximizing function may be cognitively demanding, though. This study investigates whether altruistic sharing in 4- to 6-year-old children, assessed by a dictator game (DG), is related to three measures of executive functioning, that is, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. We found that children who turned out to be altruistic in the DG performed better on an inhibition task than non-altruists did. This finding lends support to the hypothesis that altruistic sharing might be somewhat constrained by the child’s ability to inhibit a natural tendency to preserve his or her own resources. Much research is needed to understand the role of inhibitory control in the development of costly sharing and the consolidation of inequity aversion.


Altruistic sharingInhibitory controlExecutive functioningDictator gameYoung children

Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Aguilar-Pardo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rosario Martínez-Arias
    • 3
  • Fernando Colmenares
    • 2
  1. 1.Departamento de Psicología, Facultad de Ciencias SocialesUniversidad Externado de ColombiaBogotáColombia
  2. 2.Grupo UCM de Estudio del Comportamiento Animal y Humano, Departamento de Psicobiología, Facultad de PsicologíaUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain
  3. 3.Departamento de Metodología de las Ciencias del Comportamiento, Facultad de PsicologíaUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain