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A Study in Economic Psychology: Children's Saving in a Play Economy

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/01/1991
<mark>Journal</mark>Human Relations
Issue number2
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)127-146
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English
Externally publishedYes


Economic Psychology extends the study of psychology and, in this case, the investigation of the socialization process in the economic realm. Thirty children, ten each aged 6, 9, and 12, took part in a “play economy” which consisted of four adjoining rooms, representing opportunities to save (one room was a “bank”) or temptation to spend, e.g., another room contained a sweet shop with real sweets. Children were given 90 tokens over the period of the game and had to save 70 in order to purchase a desired toy which had been chosen at the outset. This study was designed as an extension of an earlier one which used a more restricted environment (a board game). The results took two forms: (1) a simple analysis of the “success” rates of children in terms of their saving, and (2) the recording of children's own constructions of the play economy and of savings behavior, based on their verbal accounts and explanations. While the results showed a predictable pattern of increased understanding of savings (especially institutional saving) and improved savings “success” rates with increasing age, the information gathered from the accounts showed that younger children developed “rational” strategies which were not necessarily inferior when viewed in a wider social context.