Research

Information on research topics
and research ressources at the LFE

Social Motivation

Several studies from the last decades interpreted children’s behaviors to be driven by social motivations: Young children prefer to be and to play with others, and they even sacrifice their own goods in order to be “social”. In this project we are currently investigating children’s social motivation towards both peers and adults. We thus want to find out whether (I) these social behaviors are linked to each other, (II) how they are shaped by culture and socialization, and (III) if social motivation is linked to other keystones of human development, such as Theory of Mind. In order to answer these questions, we are conducting empirical studies with children between 3-7 years of age in two Namibian societies as well as in Germany.

Much attention has previously been paid to superior social cognitive skills in humans in contrast to other great apes in order to explain the differences in social behavior between these species. However, recent data casts doubt on the view that these abilities are the major difference between humans and other great apes. Besides remaining differences in cognitive skills, other, non-cognitive factors might play an equally, and potentially even more fundamental role for the unique characteristics of human social behavior. For example, great apes seem to share the cognitive skills that enable them to solve some novel problems collaboratively, but not the likewise required social motivation with humans. This project aims to investigate whether great ape species, as well as different human cultures vary in their social motivations towards peers and how these social motivations change across lifespan.

M.Sc. Roman Stengelin
Research Associate | PhD Student
Prof. Dr. Daniel Haun
Director || Head of Department
  • Rekers, Y., Haun, D. B. M., & Tomasello, M. (2011). Children, but not chimpanzees, prefer to collaborate. Current Biology, 21(20), 1756-8.