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 two potential developmental mechanisms responsible for driving prosocial behavior: (1) early social experiences, and (2) cognitive prerequisites.

In particular, Chernyak reviews evidence that (1) experiences with choice and agency enables children to construct their prosocial identities; and (2) 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.

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