Young children, but not chimpanzees, are averse to disadvantageous and advantageous inequities.

Thumbnail Image




Ulber, Julia
Hamann, Katharina
Tomasello, Michael

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats


Citation Stats


The age at which young children show an aversion to inequitable resource distributions, especially those favoring themselves, is unclear. It is also unclear whether great apes, as humans' nearest evolutionary relatives, have an aversion to inequitable resource distributions at all. Using a common methodology across species and child ages, the current two studies found that 3- and 4-year-old children (N=64) not only objected when they received less than a collaborative partner but also sacrificed to equalize when they received more. They did neither of these things in a nonsocial situation, demonstrating the fundamental role of social comparison. In contrast, chimpanzees (N=9) showed no aversion to inequitable distributions, only a concern for maximizing their own resources, with no differences between social and nonsocial conditions. These results underscore the unique importance for humans, even early in ontogeny, for treating others fairly, presumably as a way of becoming a cooperative member of one's cultural group.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Ulber, Julia, Katharina Hamann and Michael Tomasello (2017). Young children, but not chimpanzees, are averse to disadvantageous and advantageous inequities. J Exp Child Psychol, 155. pp. 48–66. 10.1016/j.jecp.2016.10.013 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Michael Tomasello

James F. Bonk Distinguished Professor

Major research interests in processes of social cognition, social learning, cooperation, and communication from developmental, comparative, and cultural perspectives. Current theoretical focus on processes of shared intentionality. Empirical research mainly with human children from 1 to 4 years of age and great apes.

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.