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Young Humeans: the role of emotions in children's evaluation of moral reasoning abilities

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Abstract

Three experiments investigated whether children in grades K, 2, and 4 (n = 144) view emotional comprehension as important in solving moral dilemmas. The experiments asked whether a human or an artificially intelligent machine would be best at solving different types of problems, ranging from moral and emotional to nonmoral and pragmatic. In Experiment 1, children in all age groups indicated that a human would be superior to a computer not only at comprehending emotions, but also at solving moral dilemmas. In Experiment 2, older children also indicated that a human could solve moral dilemmas better than a ‘robot’ with human-like perceptual and physical abilities. Experiment 3 further demonstrated that these effects were not solely due to a bias towards humans. Thus, children as young as age 5 view emotional understanding as an important element for moral, but not for nonmoral, reasoning, suggesting that the basis for Humean intuitions emerges early in life.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1:  Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, USA 2:  Department of Psychology, Yale University, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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