Research highlight

Social sciences: Childhood interventions and social decision making in adulthood

Nature Communications

November 21, 2018

Adults who received educational intervention in early childhood (from the first few months of life to school entry) are more likely to enforce social norms and are better at planning ahead for benefits in the future, according to a paper in Nature Communications. The study suggests that high-quality, early childhood investment could have an effect on a person’s social decision making into adulthood.

The Abecedarian Project (ABC) was an intervention study that provided intense early childhood educational support to newborns from low-income, multi-risk families in North Carolina in the first five years of their life between 1972 and 1977. Previous research has shown positive cognitive, educational, economic and physical health outcomes into adulthood for intervention participants. However, the effects on social decision-making strategies have not been investigated.

Read Montague and colleagues recalled 78 participants from the ABC intervention (aged 39-45) to participate in financial games that probe social norm enforcement and planning. The authors show that those who received educational intervention were better at planning for the future. They also found that in a game the ABC intervention group was more likely to reject an unequal division of money among players (either disadvantageous or advantageous). The authors argue that educational resources provided to children from disadvantaged backgrounds may have a long lasting and positive effect on social decision-making and promote social norm enforcement in order to reap future benefits.

They note that the differences could be related to other factors resulting from the intervention and further investigations are required.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-07138-5

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