Young children mostly keep, and expect others to keep, their promises.

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2017-03-09

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Abstract

Promises are speech acts that create an obligation to do the promised action. In three studies, we investigated whether 3- and 5-year-olds (N=278) understand the normative implications of promising in prosocial interactions. In Study 1, children helped a partner who promised to share stickers. When the partner failed to uphold the promise, 3- and 5-year-olds protested and referred to promise norms. In Study 2, when children in this same age range were asked to promise to continue a cleaning task-and they agreed-they persisted longer on the task and mentioned their obligation more frequently than without such a promise. They also persisted longer after a promise than after a cleaning reminder (Study 3). In prosocial interactions, thus, young children feel a normative obligation to keep their promises and expect others to keep their promises as well.

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10.1016/j.jecp.2017.02.004

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Kanngiesser, Patricia, Bahar Köymen and Michael Tomasello (2017). Young children mostly keep, and expect others to keep, their promises. J Exp Child Psychol, 159. pp. 140–158. 10.1016/j.jecp.2017.02.004 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/13884.

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Scholars@Duke

Tomasello

Michael Tomasello

James F. Bonk Distinguished Professor

Major research interests in processes of social cognition, social learning, cooperation, and communication from developmental, comparative, and cultural perspectives. Current theoretical focus on processes of shared intentionality. Empirical research mainly with human children from 1 to 4 years of age and great apes.


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