Prosocial norms in the classroom: The role of self-regulation in following norms of giving.


Children who are prosocial in elementary school tend to have higher academic achievement and experience greater acceptance by their peers in adolescence. Despite this positive influence on educational outcomes, it is still unclear why some children are more prosocial than others in school. The current study investigates a possible link between following a prosocial norm and self-regulation. We tested 433 children between 6 and 13 years of age in two variations of the Dictator Game. Children were asked what they should or would give in the game and then played an actual DG. We show that most children hold a common norm for sharing resources, but that some children fail to follow that norm in the actual game. The gap between norm and behavior was correlated with self-regulation skills on a parent-report individual differences measure. Specifically, we show that two components of self-regulation, attention and inhibition, predict children’s ability to follow the stated norm for giving. These results suggest that some children are poorer at holding the norm in mind and following through on enacting it. We discuss the implications of these results for education and programs that promote social and emotional learning (SEL).