Children's Use of Trait Information in Their Intention Ascription and Moral Judgments of Others

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Gardiner, Sarah Lynn




Research into young children’s moral reasoning typically employs stories that utilize characters with no background information. The current study addressed this limitation by examining 4- and 5-year-old children’s use of trait information in their ascriptions of intention and moral judgments of characters who have identical, neutral intentions who produce either a positive or negative outcome. Children in the Trait-Present conditions heard stories in which a character was described with a trait (either nice or mean) along with three behavioural examples that are consistent with the trait. In order to determine the effect of providing trait information, children in the Trait-Absent condition were presented with the same stories, but without trait information. Results showed that children incorporated trait information into their judgments of others. Specifically, children judged ‘nice’ characters more leniently than the ‘mean’ characters. Performance on the main task was also examined in relation to Theory of Mind understanding.


Psychology - Developmental




Carleton University

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