Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Rebecca Williamson

Second Advisor

Michael Beran

Third Advisor

Sarah Brosnan

Fourth Advisor

Ann Kruger


Prosociality encompasses a variety of actions aimed at benefitting another person, (e.g., Brownell, 2013; Martin & Olson, 2015; Thompson & Newton, 2013). One category of prosocial behaviors is sharing, which uniquely requires relinquishing an object to alleviate another person’s need (Pettygrove, Hammond, Karahuta, Waugh, & Brownell, 2013). While past research has shown that children may have some innate predisposition towards prosociality (e.g., Killen & de Waal, 2000; Warneken & Tomasello, 2009b), there are also situational influences that may encourage such behaviors (e.g., Martin & Olson, 2015). The current three studies investigate preschoolers’ and early elementary school children’s ability to consider another person’s goal when distributing resources in a sharing scenario for others and themselves. In Study 1, participants were presented with either a concrete or non-specific goal and asked to distribute resources between two characters. By age 5, children varied their sharing behaviors based on the goal presented to them, while 3- and 4-year-olds prioritized equity across conditions. Study 2 expanded on these findings, asking children to distribute their own resources with another character. Children of all ages showed a preference for equity in this study, choosing to treat themselves and a partner equally. Finally, Study 3 investigated children’s sensitivity to another’s proximity to a goal. By age 5, children varied their distribution behaviors dependent upon the goal completion presented to them, preferring to donate more to someone whose goal was nearer completion. Taken together, these studies provide a first step towards a better understanding of one potential motivation behind children’s distribution and sharing behaviors.