Business School | It Takes Brains to Behave Spitefully

| December 17, 2014

HBR940

Harvard Business Review:

Preschoolers with greater cognitive ability have a greater propensity to behave spitefully toward others in a game, taking intentional actions that decrease their partners’ payoffs even at some cost to themselves, say Elisabeth Bügelmayer and C. Katharina Spiess of DIW Berlin in Germany.

In an experiment, a 1-standard-deviation increase in a cognitive ability score increased a child’s likelihood of behaving spitefully by 8 percentage points. Spiteful behavior requires a certain level of cognitive ability, the researchers point out: The behavior’s costs and benefits must be calculated and the consequences taken into account.

SOURCE: Spite and cognitive skills in preschoolers

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