Taking account of others’ goals in social information use: Developmental changes in 3- to 7-year-old children

Blakey, Kirsten H., Atkinson, Mark, Rafetseder, Eva, Renner, Elizabeth and Caldwell, Christine A. (2022) Taking account of others’ goals in social information use: Developmental changes in 3- to 7-year-old children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 215. p. 105325. ISSN 0022-0965

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2021.105325


The ability to take mental states such as goals into account when interpreting others’ behavior has been proposed to be what sets human use of social information apart from that of other animals. If so, children's social information use would be expected to change as their understanding of others’ mental states develops. We explored age-related changes in 3- to 7-year-old children's ability to strategically use social information by taking into account another's goal when it was, or was not, aligned with their own. Children observed as a puppet demonstrator selected a capsule, peeked inside, and chose to accept or reject it, following which children made their own selection. Children were able to account for others’ conflicting motivations from around 4 years of age and reliably inferred the outcome of others’ behavior from 6 years. However, using social information based on such inferences appeared to be challenging regardless of whether the demonstrator's goal was, or was not. aligned to that of the participant. We found that social information use improved with age; however, this improvement was restricted to cases in which the appropriate response was to avoid copying the demonstrator's selection. In contrast to previous research, appropriate copying responses remained at chance. Possible explanations for this unexpected pattern of results are discussed. The cognitive challenge associated with the ability to account for others’ goals could offer humans a significant advantage over that of other animals in their ability to use social information.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: We are grateful to the RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and Dundee Science Centre for the opportunity to recruit and test children. We thank the teachers and children at schools and nurseries in central Scotland for their support and participation. We are also grateful to student research assistants for their help with data collection. This project received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (648841 RATCHETCOG ERC-2014-CoG). K.H.B. was supported by a Ph.D. studentship funded by the University of Stirling.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cognitive development, Comparative psychology, Copying, Goals, Information use, Social learning
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2023 15:37
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2023 15:45
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/51189

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