UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Social Evaluation of Intentional, Truly Accidental, and Negligently Accidental Helpers and Harmers by 10-month-old Infants Woo, Brandon M.; Steckler, Conor M.; Le, Doan T.; Hamlin, J. Kiley


Whereas adults largely base their evaluations of others’ actions on others’ intentions, a host of research in developmental psychology suggests that younger children privilege outcome over intention, leading them to condemn accidental harm. To date, this question has been examined only with children capable of language production. In the current studies, we utilized a non-linguistic puppet show paradigm to examine the evaluation of intentional and accidental acts of helping or harming in 10-month-old infants. In Experiment 1 (n=64), infants preferred intentional over accidental helpers but accidental over intentional harmers, suggesting that by this age infants incorporate information about others’ intentions into their social evaluations. In Experiment 2 (n=64), infants did not distinguish “negligently” accidental from intentional helpers or harmers, suggestive that infants may find negligent accidents somewhat intentional. In Experiment 3 (n=64), we found that infants preferred truly accidental over negligently accidental harmers, but did not reliably distinguish negligently accidental from truly accidental helpers, consistent with past work with adults and children suggestive that humans are particularly sensitive to negligently accidental harm. Together, these results imply that infants engage in intention-based social evaluation of those who help and harm accidentally, so long as those accidents do not stem from negligence.

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