Are Humans Naturally Obligated to One Another?

Eoin O’Carroll | CS Monitor

If you bail on an activity with a preschooler, you’d better have a good excuse.

That’s because, according to research published this week in the journal Child Development, children as young as three and a half years old understand and value the obligations that accompany joint commitments. The researchers found that children who abandon a cooperative activity for an apparently selfish reason tend to prompt more resentment from their peers than those who quit the task for another reason.

These findings do not just build on a growing body of research suggesting that the very young possess moral capabilities that are more sophisticated than scientists previously thought. They also suggest that the notion of shared obligation is in some ways fundamental to Homo sapiens, the only known animal to create social institutions.

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