Children's Sharing Behaviour in the Virtual Environment

Thumbnail Image
Pinheiro, Sylvia Galvao de Vasconcelos
Developmental Psychology , Prosocial Behaviour , Child Development
Sharing is a key prosocial behaviour for human success as a species. Its development within different contexts, however, is still poorly investigated. A timely and important question regards the similarity between our prosocial behaviours in virtual environments and those in person, given the near ubiquity of online interactions as well as the recent increase in remote testing methods for developmental science. This dissertation investigates 3.5- to 11-year-olds’s sharing behaviour online, with three specific aims: (1) examining the developmental hallmarks of sharing in a virtual experiment; (2) examining the influence of children’s subjective socioeconomic status on online sharing behaviour; and (3) assessing whether some aspects of the virtual testing environment may affect decision-making in relation to sharing and SSS. Chapter 1 reviews existing research on the development of sharing, highlighting the need to investigate sharing beyond traditional in-laboratory testing. Then, in Chapter 2, we test a virtual version of the Dictator Game. Our analyses revealed some characteristics of online sharing behaviour that are consistent with in-person situations: children share more and are more equitable after middle childhood and when the online interaction is monitored by an experimenter. However, the youngest children shared online more than what is observed in person, potentially due to differences in virtual resource value and challenges with the digital interface. Chapter 3 explores the effect of SSS on sharing patterns. We corroborated the developmental declines of SSS, with an observed alignment with caregivers’ report. Additionally, children in the low-SSS shared significantly more and in a more equitable manner than children in the high-SSS. In Chapter 4, we examine whether children’s differences in technology experience and need for assistance influence the outcomes in our testing platform. Our results suggest that while technology experience positively influenced sharing, the youngest children in the sample whose caregivers assisted during the familiarization tasks shared slightly less during the subsequent sharing tasks. Lastly, in Chapter 5, we suggest that these studies offer insights into how sharing behavior develops, discuss practical implications, and raise questions for future research.
External DOI