Children are clever helpers

PTI| Updated: Dec 27, 2013, 15:16 PM IST
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London: Kids as young as three years old have already learned not to blindly carry out requests, a first-of-its-kind study has found.

Researchers said even young kids can override direct requests in deciding the best way to help someone else achieve their goals.

 They observed examples of such "paternalistic helping" in children who, in one example from the study, chose to give a fully functional cup when asked for a broken one to pour liquid.

"Our study forces kids to show what their abilities are and shows that kids are actually able to override obvious goals and go for that thing that actually helps the person," said study lead author Alia Martin from the Yale University.

Researchers familiarised kids with four pairs of functional and dysfunctional objects ? a normal cup and a broken cup, a working marker and a dried-out marker, a real hammer and a soft toy hammer and a working cell phone and a plastic cell phone, 'Yale Daily News' reported.

They then asked the kids to hand over certain objects after stating one of four goals: pouring water, writing a note, putting the note on a wall and making a phone call.

More than two thirds of the time, when researchers requested a dysfunctional object, the child handed over the functional one instead, the report said.

"I didn't think kids would be able to engage in this kind of helping until they were a little older," said Kristina Olson, study author from University of Washington.

Researchers then asked children to give them objects that would ultimately be thrown out.

They found that the subjects were equally likely to give functional and dysfunctional objects.