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The Development of Cynicism

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Abstract:

Abstract

Two experiments explored the development of cynicism by examining how children evaluate other people who make claims consistent or inconsistent with their self-interests. In Experiment 1, kindergartners, second graders, and fourth graders heard stories with ambiguous conclusions in which characters made statements that were aligned either with or against self-interest. Older children took into account the self-interests of characters in determining how much to believe them: They discounted statements aligned with self-interest, whereas they accepted statements going against self-interest. Experiment 2 examined children's endorsement of three different explanations for potentially self-interested statements: lies, biases, and mistakes. Like adults, sixth graders endorsed lies and bias as plausible explanations for wrong statements aligned with self-interest; younger children did not endorse bias. Implications for the development of cynicism and children's understanding of bias are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01545.x

Affiliations: Yale University

Publication date: May 1, 2005

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