•  346
    Knowledge before Belief
    with Jonathan Phillips, Wesley Buckwalter, Fiery Cushman, Alia Martin, John Turri, Laurie Santos, and Joshua Knobe
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 1-37. forthcoming.
    Research on the capacity to understand others’ minds has tended to focus on representations of beliefs, which are widely taken to be among the most central and basic theory of mind representations. Representations of knowledge, by contrast, have received comparatively little attention and have often been understood as depending on prior representations of belief. After all, how could one represent someone as knowing something if one doesn't even represent them as believing it? Drawing on a wide …Read more
  •  24
    Academics across widely ranging disciplines all pursue knowledge, but they do so using vastly different methods. Do these academics therefore also have different ideas about when someone possesses knowledge? Recent experimental findings suggest that intuitions about when individuals have knowledge may vary across groups; in particular, the concept of knowledge espoused by the discipline of philosophy may not align with the concept held by laypeople. Across two studies, we investigate the concept…Read more
  •  9
    Unsolicited but acceptable: Non-owners can access property if the owner benefits
    with Emily Elizabeth Stonehouse
    Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 150 (1): 135-144. 2021.
    People are normally restricted from accessing property without permission from the owner. The principle that nonowners are excluded from property is central to theories of ownership, and previous findings suggest it could be a core feature of the psychology of ownership. However, we report six experiments on children (N = 480) and adults (N = 211) showing that this principle may not apply for actions that benefit the owner—actions like repairing broken property. In Experiment 1, 3–5-year-olds ju…Read more
  •  7
    Future-oriented objects
    with Brandon W. Goulding
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 42. 2019.
    Hoerl & McCormack suggest that saving tools does not require temporal reasoning. However, we identify a class of objects that are only possessed in anticipation of future needs. We propose that investigating these future-oriented objects may help identify temporal reasoning in populations where this ability is uncertain.
  •  7
    Children value objects with distinctive histories
    with Madison L. Pesowski
    Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 148 (12): 2120-2128. 2019.
    From ancient objects in museums to souvenirs obtained on vacation, we often value objects for their distinctive histories. The present experiments investigate the developmental origins of people’s feelings that objects with distinctive histories are special. In each of four experiments, 4- to 7-year-olds (total N = 400) saw pairs of identical-looking objects in which one object was new and the other had a history that was either distinctive or mundane. In the first experiment, the histories did …Read more
  •  9
    Sunk Cost Bias and Withdrawal Aversion
    with Michał Białek, Jonathan A. Fugelsang, Ethan A. Meyers, and Martin H. Turpin
    American Journal of Bioethics 19 (3): 57-59. 2019.
  •  10
    Ownership Matters: People Possess a Naïve Theory of Ownership
    with Shaylene E. Nancekivell and Susan A. Gelman
    Trends in Cognitive Sciences 23 (2): 102-113. 2019.
  •  6
    Spoiled for choice: Identifying the building blocks of folk-economic beliefs
    with Shaylene Nancekivell
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 41. 2018.
    Boyer & Petersen suggest that folk-economic beliefs result from evolved domain-specific cognitive systems concerned with social exchange. However, a major challenge for their account is that each folk-economic belief can be explained by different combinations of evolved cognitive systems. We illustrate this by offering alternative explanations for several economic beliefs they discuss.
  •  7
    Young children’s understanding of the limits and benefits of group ownership
    with Michelle Huh
    Developmental Psychology 53 (4): 686-697. 2017.
    Group ownership is ubiquitous—property is owned by countries, corporations, families, and clubs. However, people cannot understand group ownership by simply relying on their conceptions of ownership by individuals, as group ownership is subject to complexities that do not arise when property is individually owned. We report 6 experiments investigating whether children ages 3 to 6 understand group ownership. In Experiments 1 and 2 children were asked who different objects belong to, and they appr…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
  •  148
    Knowledge central: A central role for knowledge attributions in social evaluations
    with John Turri and Ashley Keefner
    Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 70 (3): 504-515. 2017.
    Five experiments demonstrate the central role of knowledge attributions in social evaluations. In Experiments 1–3, we manipulated whether an agent believes, is certain of, or knows a true proposition and asked people to rate whether the agent should perform a variety of actions. We found that knowledge, more so than belief or certainty, leads people to judge that the agent should act. In Experiments 4–5, we investigated whether attributions of knowledge or certainty can explain an important find…Read more
  •  757
    Children hold owners responsible when property causes harm
    with Celina K. Bowman-Smith and Brandon W. Goulding
    Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 147 (8): 1191-1199. 2018.
    Since ancient times, legal systems have held owners responsible for harm caused by their property. Across 4 experiments, we show that children aged 3–7 also hold owners responsible for such harm. Older children judge that owners should repair harm caused by property, and younger children may do this as well. Younger and older children judge that owners should apologize for harm, even when children do not believe the owners allowed the harm to occur. Children are also as likely to hold owners res…Read more
  •  62
    The ability to engage in and recognize pretend play begins around 18 months. A major challenge for theories of pretense is explaining how children are able to engage in pretense, and how they are able to recognize pretense in others. According to one major account, the metarepresentational theory, young children possess both production and recognition abilities because they possess the mental state concept, PRETEND. According to a more recent rival account, the Behavioral theory, young children …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
  •  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
  •  20
    Although people own myriad objects, land, and even ideas, it is currently illegal to own other humans. This reluctance to view people as property raises interesting questions about our conceptions of people and about our conceptions of ownership. We suggest that one factor contributing to this reluctance is that humans are normally considered to be autonomous, and autonomy is incompatible with being owned by someone else. To investigate whether autonomy impacts judgments of ownership, participan…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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  181
    Is probabilistic evidence a source of knowledge?
    with John Turri
    Cognitive Science 39 (5): 1062-1080. 2015.
    We report a series of experiments examining whether people ascribe knowledge for true beliefs based on probabilistic evidence. Participants were less likely to ascribe knowledge for beliefs based on probabilistic evidence than for beliefs based on perceptual evidence or testimony providing causal information. Denial of knowledge for beliefs based on probabilistic evidence did not arise because participants viewed such beliefs as unjustified, nor because such beliefs leave open the possibility of…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
  •  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
  •  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
  • 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
  • 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
  •  14
    “Because it's hers”: When preschoolers use ownership in their explanations
    with Shaylene E. Nancekivell
    Cognitive Science 41 (3): 827-843. 2017.
    Young children show competence in reasoning about how ownership affects object use. In the present experiments, we investigate how influential ownership is for young children by examining their explanations. In three experiments, we asked 3- to 5-year-olds to explain why it was acceptable or unacceptable for a person to use an object. In Experiments 1 and 2, older preschoolers referenced ownership more than alternative considerations when explaining why it was acceptable or unacceptable for a pe…Read more
  •  150
    The development of territory-based inferences of ownership
    with Brandon W. Goulding
    Cognition 177 142-149. 2018.
    Legal systems often rule that people own objects in their territory. We propose that an early-developing ability to make territory-based inferences of ownership helps children address informational demands presented by ownership. Across 6 experiments (N = 504), we show that these inferences develop between ages 3 and 5 and stem from two aspects of the psychology of ownership. First, we find that a basic ability to infer that people own objects in their territory is already present at age 3 (Expe…Read more
  •  8
    Identical but not interchangeable: Preschoolers view owned objects as non-fungible
    with Stephanie McEwan and Madison L. Pesowski
    Cognition 146 16-21. 2016.
    Owned objects are typically viewed as non-fungible-they cannot be freely interchanged. We report three experiments (total N=312) demonstrating this intuition in preschool-aged children. In Experiment 1, children considered an agent who takes one of two identical objects and leaves the other for a peer. Children viewed this as acceptable when the agent took his own item, but not when he took his peer's item. In Experiment 2, children considered scenarios where one agent took property from another…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
  •  31
    Parallels in Preschoolers' and Adults' Judgments About Ownership Rights and Bodily Rights
    with Julia W. Van de Vondervoort
    Cognitive Science 39 (1): 184-198. 2015.
    Understanding ownership rights is necessary for socially appropriate behavior. We provide evidence that preschoolers' and adults' judgments of ownership rights are related to their judgments of bodily rights. Four-year-olds and adults evaluated the acceptability of harmless actions targeting owned property and body parts. At both ages, evaluations did not vary for owned property or body parts. Instead, evaluations were influenced by two other manipulations—whether the target belonged to the agen…Read more