Does it always feel good to get what you want? Young children differentiate between material and wicked desires
Smith, Craig E.
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CitationSmith, Craig E., and Felix Warneken. 2014. “Does It Always Feel Good to Get What You Want? Young Children Differentiate Between Material and Wicked Desires.” British Journal of Developmental Psychology 32 (1) (March): 3–16.
AbstractOne line of research on children's attributions of guilt suggests that 3-year-olds attribute negative emotion to self-serving victimizers, slightly older children attribute happiness, and with increasing age, attributions become negative again (i.e., a three-step model; Yuill et al., 1996, Br. J. Dev. Psychol., 14, 457). Another line of research provides reason to expect that 3-year-olds may be predisposed to view self-serving moral transgression as leading to positive emotion; this is a linear developmental model in which emotion attributions to transgressors become increasingly negative over the course of childhood (e.g., Nunner-Winkler & Sodian, 1988, Child Dev., 59, 1323). However, key differences in methodology make it difficult to compare across these findings. The present study was designed to address this problem. We asked how 3- to 9-year-old children (n = 111) reason about transgression scenarios that involve satisfying wicked desires (wanting to cause harm and doing so successfully) versus material desires (wanting an object and getting it successfully via harmful behaviour). Three-year-old children reasoned differently about desire and emotion across these two types of transgressions, attributing negative emotion in the case of wicked desires and positive emotion in the case of material desires. This pattern of emotion attribution by young children provides new information about how young children process information about desires and emotions in the moral domain, and it bridges a gap in the existing literature on this topic.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12285466
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