Children's Understanding of Intention and its Expression in Language

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Jameson, Emma Christine




Some English verbs carry a moral connotation and thus are relevant to moral reasoning. While research has examined children's understanding of lying, less is known about their understanding of other moral verbs. The current study examined 4- to 7-year-old children's (n = 44) usage and understanding of the 'language of intention' in morally relevant contexts that could be described by the verbs lie, steal, copy, and hide. Participants made intention attributions, moral judgements, and assigned punishment to characters who acted either intentionally or unintentionally. Results showed that younger children were not sensitive to intention across these contexts, but that older children's sensitivity was moving in the correct direction, based on a comparison of their performance to that of an adult sample (n = 48). Children's performance on the main task was generally not related to Theory of Mind and Morally Relevant Theory of Mind understanding.


Psychology - Developmental
Psychology - Cognitive




Carleton University

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