Spite and cognitive skills in preschoolers.


Other-regarding preferences in adults have been examined in depth in the literature. Research has shown that spiteful preferences play a crucial role in the development of human large-scale cooperation. However, there is little evidence of the factors explaining spiteful behavior in children. We investigate the relationship between children’s cognitive skills and spiteful behavior in a sample of 214 preschoolers aged 5-6 and their mothers. Here, other-regarding behavior in children is elicited through four simple allocation decisions. A key advantage of our study is that we have information about children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills as well as maternal and household characteristics. We find that higher cognitive skills are associated with more spiteful behavior in children. This relationship is even more pronounced among boys. Moreover, we find further gender differences that depend on the measure of cognitive skills and the degree of spite displayed.