The NYT has an article about how deeply embedded “fairness” is in the human mind.
Children not only feel they should obey these rules themselves, but also that they should make others in the group do the same. Even 3-year-olds are willing to enforce social norms. If they are shown how to play a game, and a puppet then joins in with its own idea of the rules, the children will object, some of them vociferously.
Where do they get this idea of group rules, the sense of “we who do it this way”? Dr. Tomasello believes children develop what he calls “shared intentionality,” a notion of what others expect to happen and hence a sense of a group “we.” It is from this shared intentionality that children derive their sense of norms and of expecting others to obey them.
Shared intentionality, in Dr. Tomasello’s view, is close to the essence of what distinguishes people from chimpanzees. A group of human children will use all kinds of words and gestures to form goals and coordinate activities, but young chimps seem to have little interest in what may be their companions’ minds.
I took note of this for two reasons.
1) The human being’s eagerness to enforce the rules of “we do it this way” represent one of the difficult challenges faced those who want to change the culture of aging services. Even though most people agree that the current system does not yield the kind of results we want, it seems unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game. It is useful to talk about this natural tendency, and how it feels to be living through a such a change, when doing training or education on new models of care.
2) People living with dementia share the same, deeply held, view that “fair is fair.” This capacity represents a strength which is often retained far into the journey of dementia. Effective non-biomedical approaches to supporting people living with dementia often make deliberate use of shared intentionality. For example, when a group of small children come to visit on a regular basis, their presence leads people, as a group, to embrace the “rules for caring for small children.” In essence, the small group itself becomes an adjunct to the brain of someone living with dementia and helps that person engage in conduct that is pleasing to all concerned.