Judgments of the lucky across development and culture

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 May;94(5):757-76. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.94.5.757.


For millennia, human beings have believed that it is morally wrong to judge others by the fortuitous or unfortunate events that befall them or by the actions of another person. Rather, an individual's own intended, deliberate actions should be the basis of his or her evaluation, reward, and punishment. In a series of studies, the authors investigated whether such rules guide the judgments of children. The first 3 studies demonstrated that children view lucky others as more likely than unlucky others to perform intentional good actions. Children similarly assess the siblings of lucky others as more likely to perform intentional good actions than the siblings of unlucky others. The next 3 studies demonstrated that children as young as 3 years believe that lucky people are nicer than unlucky people. The final 2 studies found that Japanese children also demonstrate a robust preference for the lucky and their associates. These findings are discussed in relation to M. J. Lerner's (1980) just-world theory and J. Piaget's (1932/1965) immanent-justice research and in relation to the development of intergroup attitudes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Japan
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Moral Development*
  • Punishment
  • Reward*
  • Sibling Relations
  • Social Desirability*
  • Social Dominance
  • Social Identification
  • Social Justice / psychology
  • United States