"The children in our study helped at very high levels only when responsibility was clearly attributed to them," explained psychological scientist and lead researcher Maria Plotner of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, suggest that children at this age take responsibility into account when deciding whether to help.Just like adults, children show the "bystander effect" which is most likely driven by a diffusion of responsibility when multiple bystanders are available to help someone in need.Previous research has shown that children are generally very helpful, but few studies had specifically looked at whether the presence of others affects this helping behaviour.

The data revealed a very clear pattern of findings: The children were less likely to get the paper towels for the researcher when other children were present and available to help.If the other children were unavailable for helping (because their path to the researcher was obstructed), however, the participants were just as likely to retrieve the paper towels as participants who were alone with the researcher.The results show that the "bystander" effect is evident in children as young as five.

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