The Cooperation Theory of moral development starts from the premise that morality is a special form of cooperation. Before 3 years of age, children help and share with others prosocially, and they collaborate with others in ways that foster a sense of equally deserving partners. But then, at around the age of 3, their social interactions are transformed by an emerging understanding of, and respect for, normative standards. Three-year-olds become capable of making and respecting joint commitments, treating collaborative partners fairly, enforcing social norms, and feeling guilty when they violate any of these. The almost simultaneous emergence of a normative attitude in all of these interactional contexts demands explanation. We suggest a transactional causal model: the maturation of capacities for shared intentionality (adaptations for cultural life) makes possible new forms of cooperative social interaction, and these new forms of cooperative social interaction foster and guide moral development.

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