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Psychology Program presents

Paternalistic Helping in Young Children

Thursday, April 4, 2013

[Paternalistic Helping in Young Children]
A lecture by
Kristina Olson
Yale University

Helping others is often relatively straightforward—providing a beneficiary with something that is requested to help achieve a goal—and, as such, even infants and toddlers can do it. However, sometimes, the best way to help someone is by not providing what they request, for example, withholding cigarettes from a smoker, a phenomenon I term paternalistic helping. In this talk I present several new studies demonstrating that despite the complexity required to engage in paternalistic helping, children as young as 3 years of age will ignore an adult’s immediate request, providing instead the best means to help the adult accomplish his/her ultimate goal. I also explore children’s tendency to engage in paternalistic helping strategically, for example, depending on whether the person needing help is a good or bad person. These studies illustrate that prosocial tendencies are surprisingly sophisticated and flexible early in development.


Location: Preston Theater