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Journal Article

Young children’s moral judgments depend on the social relationship between agents


Tomasello,  Michael       
Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Mammen, M., Köymen, B., & Tomasello, M. (2021). Young children’s moral judgments depend on the social relationship between agents. Cognitive Development, 57: 100973. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2020.100973.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-4FCA-D
Moral judgments can vary depending on the social relationship between agents. We presented 4- and 6-year-old peer dyads (N = 128) with stories, in which a parent (parent condition) or a peer protagonist (peer condition) faced a child in need of help (e.g., the child is thirsty). The dyads had to decide whether the protagonist helped at a cost (e.g., by giving up their water) or not. 6-year-olds expected a parent to help their child more than they expected a child to help their peer. Moreover, children justified their expectations more often with normative statements (e.g., "She has to help") in the parent condition than in the peer condition. Thus, refusal to help a child was more acceptable coming from a peer than from a parent. The results suggest that young children take into account multiple perspectives and form different normative expectations for different social agents when making moral judgments.