One for me, two for you: Agency increases children's satisfaction with disadvantageous inequity

Tom Gordon-Hecker*, Alex Shaw, Shoham Choshen-Hillel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Children are notoriously inequity averse: they tend to respond negatively when someone else receives more than them for the same work. Here we suggest that children's inequity aversion is more nuanced than it might appear at first glance. Specifically, we argue that children's negative reaction to inequity is powerfully shaped by a simple factor: whether or not they have a sense of agency in creating the outcomes in question. We hypothesize that a sense of agency, or control over the resource allocation, reduces children's inequity aversion and increases their satisfaction with another child receiving more than them. In two experiments (N = 417) utilizing a within-subject design, children aged 4 to 10 years old were asked to rate their satisfaction with an allocation in which another child received more than them. In one condition they were the ones choosing the allocation (“agency condition”), whereas in another condition they could not affect the allocation (“no-agency condition”). In line with our hypothesis, children reported being more satisfied with disadvantageous inequity when they had agency than when they did not (Experiment 1). They were also more satisfied with a disadvantageous allocation when they had agency than when the same allocation was created using an impartial lottery (Experiment 2). The agency effect did not depend on age. Taken together, our findings suggest a degree of sophistication in children's reactions to inequity and provide a practical allocation tool that can be used by parents and educators.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number104286
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.


  • Agency
  • Fairness
  • Generosity
  • Inequity
  • Inequity aversion


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