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[Paper spotlight] Autonomy, cognitive development, and the socialisation of cooperation in foragers

A new paper from Adam Howell Boyette, exploring autonomy, cognitive development, and socialization of cooperation among Aka children.


"It is well established that respect for autonomy and sharing are two core values that, along with egalitarianism have great influence over thought and action in mobile foraging society. However, resolving the tension between these values is also key to forager social life, which requires both a lack of dependence on specific others and consistent and significant generosity to maintain social harmony. Children’s emerging conceptions of these values and their coming to accept them through their everyday experiences with social norms has not received much attention and is the subject of this study. Here, a cognitive approach to value socialisation from anthropology is integrated with research from developmental psychology regarding children’s internalisation of normative behaviour – sharing norms in particular – to shed light on how children come to resolve psychological conflicts between the value of sharing, with its explicit normative practices of giving away, and the value of autonomy, which may be implicitly seen by children when others accept occasionally selfish behaviour. Drawing from semi-formal interviews with 31 Aka forest forager children around the ages of 5–16 years old, children’s responses to questions about their experiences sharing food and other resources and caring for infants are subjected to content analysis. Results add further empirical support that sharing is an early internalised value and influence over children’s behaviour. They also suggest an integration of psychological anthropology and developmental psychology is useful in understanding forager socialisation."


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