Learning to Wait and Be Altruistic: Testing A Conversational Training in Economic Education for Primary School Children


  • Elisabetta Lombardi
  • Annalisa Valle
  • Teresa Rinaldi
  • Davide Massaro
  • Antonella Marchetti


Individual economic competence is important but increasingly challenging to manage due to the growing complexity of the nature of economic decisions people must make and the substantial impacts of some of these decisions on their lives. Decision-making ability develops from childhood and is closely related to specific economic components and prosocial behaviour such as fairness, altruism, and delay of gratification. However, while there are financial-education programs for children and young people focusing on financial products, few studies have examined training for the psychological abilities underlying economic decision-making. To promote those psychological skills that contribute to a more socially effective decision-making, we designed and tested a conversational-based training program for primary school children using reflective thinking. A total of 110 (male = 47, female = 63) children aged 8 to 10 years (Mean age = 9.71 years) from two schools in Northern Italy participated in the study with 55 children in a training group and 55 in a control group. All participated in pre-tests measuring their socio-economic background and economics-related skills and abilities. The training group were told stories relaying values of fairness, altruism, and delayed gratification. Both groups participated in task-based post-tests relating to fairness, altruism, and delayed gratification. Results revealed that children in the training group showed significant improvement at the post-test in altruistic and investment behaviour, showing the training efficacy, suggesting that similar programs could be implemented in primary schools as foundational teaching of economics and fiscal responsibility.