•  6
    Children’s generic interpretation of pretense
    with Carolyn Baer
    Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 150 99-111. 2016.
    We report two experiments investigating how 3- to 5-year-olds learn general knowledge from pretend play—how they learn about kinds of things from information about particular individuals in pretend play. Children watched pretend-play enactments in which animals showed certain behaviors or heard utterances conveying the same information. When children were subsequently asked about who shows the behavior, children who watched pretend play were more likely to give generic responses than were childr…Read more
  •  6
    Young children infer preferences from a single action, but not if it is constrained
    with Madison L. Pesowski and Stephanie Denison
    Cognition 155 168-175. 2016.
    Inferring others’ preferences is socially important and useful. We investigated whether children infer preferences from the minimal information provided by an agent’s single action, and whether they avoid inferring preference when the action is constrained. In three experiments, children saw vignettes in which an agent took a worse toy instead of a better one. Experiment 1 shows that this single action influences how young children infer preferences. Children aged three and four were more likely…Read more
  •  5
    She bought the unicorn from the pet store: Six- to seven-year-olds are strongly inclined to generate natural explanations
    with Shaylene E. Nancekivell
    Developmental Psychology 53 (6): 1079-1087. 2017.
    In two experiments, we told 6- to 7-year-olds about improbable or impossible outcomes and about impossible outcomes concerning ordinary or magical agents. In both experiments, children claimed that the outcomes were impossible and could not happen, but nonetheless generated realistic and natural explanations for the outcomes. These findings show that 6- to 7-year-olds are strongly inclined to provide natural explanations. The findings are also informative about children’s judgments about whether…Read more
  •  5
    It’s personal: The effect of personal value on utilitarian moral judgments
    with Charles Millar, Christina Starmans, and Jonathan Fugelsang
    Judgment and Decision Making 11 (4): 326-331. 2016.
    We investigated whether the personal importance of objects influences utilitarian decision-making in which damaging property is necessary to produce an overall positive outcome. In Experiment 1, participants judged saving five objects by destroying a sixth object to be less acceptable when the action required destroying the sixth object directly (rather than as a side-effect) and the objects were personally important (rather than unimportant). In Experiment 2, we demonstrated that utilitarian ju…Read more
  •  3
    Children’s judgments about ownership rights and body rights: Evidence for a common basis
    with Julia W. Van de Vondervoort and Paul Meinz
    Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 155 1-11. 2017.
    We report two experiments supporting the theory that children’s understanding of ownership rights is related to their notions of body rights. Experiment 1 investigated 4- to 7-year-olds’ developing sensitivity to physical contact in their judgments about the acceptability of behaving in relation to owned objects and body parts. Experiment 2 used a simpler design to investigate this in 3- and 4-year-olds. Findings confirmed two predictions of the theory. First, in both experiments, children’s jud…Read more
  •  3
    Young children protest and correct pretense that contradicts their general knowledge
    with Julia W. Van de Vondervoort
    Cognitive Development 43 182-189. 2017.
    We report evidence that children believe that pretend objects and entities should normally be represented as having their factual properties, and that pretense ought not contradict their general knowledge. Across two experiments, 3- and 4-year-olds spontaneously provided corrections and protested pretense scenarios in which animals produced sounds typical of a different species. Children rarely protested pretense in which animals made species-typical sounds or spoke in English. Children even pro…Read more
  •  3
    Young children's understanding of ownership
    with Shaylene E. Nancekivell and Julia W. Van de Vondervoort
    Child Development Perspectives 7 (4): 243-247. 2013.
    Ownership influences the permissibility of people's use of objects. Understanding ownership is therefore necessary for socially appropriate behavior and is an important part of children's social‐cognitive development. Children are sophisticated in their reasoning about ownership early in development. They make a variety of judgments about ownership, including judgments about how ownership is acquired, who owns what, and ownership rights. Understanding how children reason about ownership can also…Read more
  •  2
    Beyond belief: The probability-based notion of surprise in children
    with Tiffany Doan and Stephanie Denison
    Emotion. forthcoming.
    Improbable events are surprising. However, it is unknown whether children consider probability when attributing surprise to other people. We conducted four experiments that investigate this issue. In the first three experiments, children saw stories in which two characters received a red gumball from two gumball machines with different distributions, and children then judged which character was more surprised. Experiment 1 shows development in children’s use of probability to infer surprise. Chi…Read more
  •  1
    Preschoolers infer ownership from “control of permission”
    with Karen R. Neary and Corinna L. Burnstein
    Developmental Psychology 45 (3): 873-876. 2009.
    Owners control permission—they forbid and permit others to use their property. So it is reasonable to assume that someone controlling permission over an object is its owner. The authors tested whether preschoolers infer ownership in this way. In the first experiment, 4- and 5-year-olds, but not 3-year-olds, chose as owner of an object a character who granted or denied another character permission to use it. In Experiment 2, older 3-year-olds chose as owner of an object a character who prevented …Read more
  • Preschoolers use emotional reactions to infer relations: The case of ownership
    with Madison L. Pesowski
    Cognitive Development 40 60-67. 2016.
    In three experiments, we examined whether young children use emotional reactions to infer relations, focusing on their inferences of ownership relations. In Experiment 1, children aged three to five years inferred ownership from emotional reactions to a positive event, in which a broken object became fixed. In Experiment 2, children aged three to six years inferred ownership from emotional reactions to a negative event in which an object became broken. Finally, in Experiment 3, children aged fou…Read more
  • Fitting the message to the listener: Children selectively mention general and specific facts
    with Carolyn Baer
    Child Development 89 (2): 461-475. 2018.
    In three experiments, two hundred and ninety‐seven 4‐ to 6‐year‐olds were asked to describe objects to a listener, and their answers were coded for the presence of general and specific facts. In Experiments 1 and 2, the listener's knowledge of the kinds of objects was manipulated. This affected references to specific facts at all ages, but only affected references to general facts in children aged 5 and older. In Experiment 3, children's goal in communicating was either pedagogical or not. Pedag…Read more
  • Accent, language, and race: 4–6‐year‐old children's inferences differ by speaker cue
    with Drew Weatherhead and Katherine S. White
    Child Development. forthcoming.
    Three experiments examined 4‐ to 6‐year‐olds' use of potential cues to geographic background. In Experiment 1, 4‐ to 5‐year‐olds used a speaker's foreign accent to infer that they currently live far away, but 6‐year‐olds did not. In Experiment 2, children at all ages used accent to infer where a speaker was born. In both experiments, race played some role in children's geographic inferences. Finally, in Experiment 3, 6‐year‐olds used language to infer both where a speaker was born and where they…Read more