In the context of reciprocity, behaving cooperatively only when it enhances one’s reputation is a strategy that brings reputational benefits at minimal cost; however, if other members of society notice an individual employing such a strategy, any accumulated positive reputation may be negated. The present study addresses the development of this social judgement by examining how preschoolers and adults evaluate agents with or without reputational management. We presented Public-only Helpers (cooperative only when they were seen) with Private-only Helpers (cooperative only when they were not seen) or Unconditional Non-Helpers (never cooperative regardless of being seen). Results showed that children less preferred Public-only Helpers presented with Private-only Helpers than with Unconditional Non-Helpers. Adults avoided Public-only Helpers irrespective of compared agents. Our findings indicate that although preschoolers’ evaluations of reputational management are not as salient as those of adults, they less prefer people who provide help to gain personal reputational benefits.
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