Children prioritize humans over animals less than adults do

Psychological Science 1 (32):27-38 (2021)
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Is the tendency to morally prioritize humans over animals weaker in children than adults? In two pre-registered studies (N = 622), 5- to 9-year-old children and adults were presented with moral dilemmas pitting varying numbers of humans against varying numbers of either dogs or pigs and were asked who should be saved. In both studies, children had a weaker tendency to prioritize humans over animals than adults. They often chose to save multiple dogs over one human, and many valued the life of a dog as much as the life of a human. While they valued pigs less, the majority still prioritized ten pigs over one human. By contrast, almost all adults chose to save one human over even one hundred dogs or pigs. Our findings suggest that the common view that humans are far more morally important than animals appears late in development and is likely socially acquired.

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