When Helping Hurts: Children Think Groups That Receive Help Are Less Smart

Jellie Sierksma, Kristin Shutts

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Helping has many positive consequences for both helpers and recipients. However, in the present research, we considered a possible downside to receiving help: that it signals a deficiency. We investigated whether young children make inferences about intelligence from observing some groups of people receive help and other groups not. In a novel group paradigm, we show that children (4-6 years) think groups that receive help are less smart (n = 44) but not less nice (n = 45). Children also generalized their inferences about relative intelligence to new group members (n = 55; forced-choice-method). These results have implications for understanding how children develop stereotypes about intelligence as well as for educational practices that group children according to their ability.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChild Development
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jan 2020


Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Child Development published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Society for Research in Child Development.

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