T Nation

Religion, Children, and Altruism


#1

Please forgive me if I choose the wrong forum for this. It's not so political, but being an international study it is technically a "world issue."

I just stumbled across this article and thought some might think it thought provoking to discuss. The study sounds like an interesting idea, however I feel like it was somewhat short-sighted. In a perfect world, I would like to see a similar study that samples from more areas of the world, with an equal amount of children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and the major religions (i.e. seemed like Hindu group was too small), as well as a control group of children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds with non-secular families.

Child psychology is an interesting field, as these little people are at one instance less influenced by societal programming, having had less time on this earth and majority of their early social learning coming from home; however, they are also in the process of expanding their world view in relation to other people and themselves every day.

http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2815%2901167-7

http://www.latimes.com/science/la-sci-sn-religion-sharing-kids-20151106-story.html


#2

From sharing STICKERS?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/study-less-religious-stat_n_1810425.html

Edit: Also, if sharing STICKERS is somehow a measure, why is it only in the context of sharing them with THOSE individuals, their classmates? I’m not seeing anything in the study that follows what the child then did with the stickers OUTSIDE of the classmate setting. Which to me is an enormous oversight. Perhaps he/she gives some to friends outside of the classmate group. To a sibling. To a next door neighbor. To the nice person at the grocery store. Maybe they drop some in the donation bins at church along with the canned foods mom and dad brings many, if not every, Sunday. Or, held more back to give their sunday school classmates. But I’m not seeing any followup as to the fate of the kept stickers outside of the “classmate” group.

In all, there’s some massive assumptions being made. First, that any sharing of stickers would follow the same pattern outside of the classmate setting. But why is this assumption made? On what grounds? Who is to say that the religious children didn’t, more often, have people OUTSIDE of the classmate setting in mind? Who is to say that the children who gave away more stickers inside the classmate setting didn’t rationalize “the rest are mine,” therefore, didn’t share as many stickers outside of that setting.

But most importantly, why are we assuming that children in this range of ages aren’t recognizing (as much as they may enjoy them) just how frivolous and unnecessary stickers are for human needs…I mean, I’m pretty sure the majority, if not the entirety, of this age range aren’t viewing sharing of stickers with classmates as anything remotely like sharing food with the hungry, clothes with the naked, and medicine with the sick. Why we would assume sticker sharing is an indicator of sharing money, time, and mental/support for those truly in need of actual human comforts/sustenance. I don’t ever recall confusing the value of stickers for my, or any other life, human need for shelter, clothing from the elements, and food.


#3

And I don’t understand the conclusion from the observation of how these children feel about PUSHING and BUMPING other children. The religious children ‘lost’ out when it came to considering others because they take this more seriously? I’m confused as to how that conclusion is reached. It seems like the exact opposite.

How is viewing unwanted and uncalled for physical interaction against others more seriously not a plus in the concern for others box? It’s absolutely backwards.


#4

[quote]Sloth wrote:
From sharing STICKERS?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/study-less-religious-stat_n_1810425.html

Edit: Also, if sharing STICKERS is somehow a measure, why is it only in the context of sharing them with THOSE individuals, their classmates? I’m not seeing anything in the study that follows what the child then did with the stickers OUTSIDE of the classmate setting. Which to me is an enormous oversight. Perhaps he/she gives some to friends outside of the classmate group. To a sibling. To a next door neighbor. To the nice person at the grocery store. Maybe they drop some in the donation bins at church along with the canned foods mom and dad brings many, if not every, Sunday. Or, held more back to give their sunday school classmates. But I’m not seeing any followup as to the fate of the kept stickers outside of the “classmate” group.

In all, there’s some massive assumptions being made. First, that any sharing of stickers would follow the same pattern outside of the classmate setting. But why is this assumption made? On what grounds? Who is to say that the religious children didn’t, more often, have people OUTSIDE of the classmate setting in mind? Who is to say that the children who gave away more stickers inside the classmate setting didn’t rationalize “the rest are mine,” therefore, didn’t share as many stickers outside of that setting.

But most importantly, why are we assuming that children in this range of ages aren’t recognizing (as much as they may enjoy them) just how frivolous and unnecessary stickers are for human needs…I mean, I’m pretty sure the majority, if not the entirety, of this age range aren’t viewing sharing of stickers with classmates as anything remotely like sharing food with the hungry, clothes with the naked, and medicine with the sick. Why we would assume sticker sharing is an indicator of sharing money, time, and mental/support for those truly in need of actual human comforts/sustenance. I don’t ever recall confusing the value of stickers for my, or any other life, human need for shelter, clothing from the elements, and food. [/quote]

I was thinking about the outside distribution of stickers, also. They may have been saving some for siblings, cousins, neighbor children, etc. This is a limiter in the study.

On the attributed value of stickers in children, I remember when I was little, freaking cool stickers were a precious commodity. I personally prized Lisa Frank stickers above all others until the age of 10-11. So I, for one, understand why why this might be used as a desired commodity to track. Sure, stickers can’t feed anyone, but kids like them a lot. They’ll do some serious work in school for stickers. It’s a thing. Ask any elementary school teacher.

The article did say that the altruistic nature increased when the children in the study from secular families were older, 8-12.


#5

[quote]Cherrybomb wrote:

On the attributed value of stickers in children, I remember when I was little, freaking cool stickers were a precious commodity. I personally prized Lisa Frank stickers above all others until the age of 10-11. So I, for one, understand why why this might be used as a desired commodity to track. Sure, stickers can’t feed anyone, but kids like them a lot. They’ll do some serious work in school for stickers. It’s a thing. Ask any elementary school teacher.[/quote]

Oh, I’m not questioning their coolness value for children, I do remember my own fondness for stickers. I’m questioning their value as a measurement for altruism. Well, at least in the form we actually should care about. In my own life, charity consists of feeding the hungry, donating clothes, time, etc. Or, giving money, through my church, for providing shelter through one of our programs. I can’t remember the last time I ever consciously thought of “donating” cool stuff. Not that I’m saying it’s dumb, but my Christian understanding of altruism/charity doesn’t really associate it. It’s always, food, water, clothing, shelter, etc. that trigger my Christian charity. Not DVDs, for example. Even the one’s I’m not fond of have simply ended up in the trash. I don’t even think of it. Now throwing out food? Absolutely cringe at it. If it’s packaged and still good, to the donation bin it goes. Furniture and clothing? To the little building our church maintains so people without can stop in and receive. Flapjack breakfasts, fish fries, all sort of events which feed the needy there at no cost to them, while raising money from the other attendees to further provide needy.

But the “cool” stuff? It just doesn’t even enter my mind. Not that I haven’t ever shared the frivolous “cool” stuff. It just never entered my mind that this was an altruistic thing. Or, that I need to do more of that. There’s just no association for me there as my Christian altruism has been honed so specifically on the needy; the sick, the poor, the cold and wet.

I mean, I think of the children from my church who are running plates of pancakes to the hungry during one of our breakfasts. The plates of fish during those fish frys. The children, old enough, who often run groceries from the food pantry to people’s cars. Or, the children who simply bring a smile to faces of the lonely and elderly here in my area of Florida (lots of retirees) by going around to their homes to sing them Christmas carols.

I’m not sure how taking note of how many stickers they gave away, and only with consideration of class mates, could ever measure what they’re involved in outside of that very specific setting, with entirely different people, and with an entirely different value, need vs cool.

Right, but I find the measurements highly questionable in the first place.

I still don’t get the mark against religious children for tending to believe in more serious punishments for people who “shove” and “push” others…That seems to indicate they take violating others more seriously…How was it viewed as anything but that?


#6

Of course, the choice of stickers was probably a quick, cheap, easy item for the researchers to use to measure generosity. In this case, it only measures a snapshot in time of students’ generosity with stickers, not food, or personal time. If these other things things were offered, I also wonder if the results would have been different.

I imagine the reactions from students being “pushed” or “shoved” in line would range from order of severity: ignoring… the pushed telling the offender to “stop”… teacher sending offender to back of the line… offender getting shoved back… teacher calling parents of the offender… offender earning lunch detention… all the way up to teacher using corporal punishment against offender. *edit: maybe not in that exact order. The severity of punishment in a child’s mind may be different from how an adult researcher would judge it. It may be that corporal punishment might be a lesser punishment than informing parents, for some children. And other children might not think that telling parents is an extreme punishment, if those children have no fear of repercussions at home.


#7

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#8

Donate those old DVDs other old cool stuff to Goodwill. They’ll sell them to the bargain hunters who shop at Goodwill. This will allow someone to have a job. At the very least you’ll keep plastic out of a landfill.

Waste not, want not!


#9

[quote]pushharder wrote:
Physicist Slams Pseudoscience Showing Atheist Kids More Altruistic than Believers

Uhhhh, other than pointing out that the journal was not sociological and that the authors were not sociologists, this is not much of a slam at all. Pretty lightweight stuff as far as scientific criticism goes. I would argue that the physicist is not a sociologist (or a psychologist) and therefore not trained in the behavioral sciences methodology.

Moreover- his “slam” that kids knew it was a game does not explain why the different groups would respond differently. They ALL knew it was a game- why then would one group share more stickers than another?

seems the physicist is grinding the other side of the axe.

jnd


#10

[quote]jnd wrote:

Moreover- his “slam” that kids knew it was a game does not explain why the different groups would respond differently. They ALL knew it was a game- why then would one group share more stickers than another?

jnd[/quote]

And that is the question. See my posts above for suggestions. Unfortunately, we got conclusions that required rather large assumptions. For instance, that sticker sharing didn’t happen outside of the class-room (there’s no evidence that they tracked anything but sharing with classmates). And if sharing is different between the groups in the classroom, there’s no reason to believe this would or wouldn’t be the case outside of the classroom, either way. It might very well be that the religious group shares more stickers OUTSIDE of the classroom. Maybe more with siblings. Maybe, with kids at their church/sunday school. Who knows, because there’s no accounting for it all. It seems very unprofessional to make a generalized conclusion concerning altruism, from an extremely narrow setting, using stickers.

And it doesn’t seem to jive when we look at charitable giving in adulthood of time and money.


#11

And the mark against religious children for believing in harsher punishment for “pushing” and “shoving” others…I still don’t get that all. That’s an indication of greater concern, taking more seriously, of physically trespassing against others. That’s a logical and reasonable argument as to why it should have been seen as the opposite. And if it can be argued to indicate the opposite, how was it used as some kind of objective standard in the way that they did?


#12

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