Socio-cognitive mechanisms of prosocial behavior

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Date and Time: 
Thursday, January 26, 2017
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Nadia Chernyak
Boston University

Humans have a sophisticated knowledge of their social and moral worlds (normative reasoning). However, in spite of such early knowledge, a large body of work also suggests that in many contexts, children (and adults) often fail to display behavior that accords with their social norms (prosocial behavior). The talk takes up the task of attempting to reconcile our early-developing knowledge (normative reasoning) with our relatively later-developing altruistic behavior by pointing to potential developmental mechanisms responsible for driving prosocial behaviors. In particular, I review evidence that certain requisite cognitive abilities that develop during early childhood, such as our numerical cognition, are important prerequisites to our abilities to behave fairly towards others. The talk concludes by discussing how our cognitive abilities shape our social tendencies through early childhood and beyond.