UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ten-month-olds' evaluations of accidental and intentional actions Le, T. Doan


Mature moral judgments rely on the analysis of both the outcomes of others’ actions and the mental states that drive them. Past research has shown that when there is conflict between outcome and intention, young children rely on outcome information to evaluate others, while older children and adults privilege intention (Piaget, 1932/1965). This suggests that there is a shift from outcome-based to intention-based judgments occurring in development. However, the current study suggests that even 10-month-old infants evaluate moral agents on the basis of their underlying mental states. Infants were presented with puppet shows in which a protagonist was either intentionally or accidentally helped or hindered. Infants were then given a forced choice between the accidental and intentional puppets. Results indicate that infants’ preference for the accidental versus the intentional character differed by condition [χ²(1, N = 60)= 11.28, p < .001, ϕ = .43]; infants preferred intentional to accidental helpers (Binomial, p < .05), but preferred accidental to intentional hinderers (Binomial, p < .05). These results suggest that the capacity to evaluate others on the basis of intention arises much earlier on in development than previously suggested and contradicts earlier claims of a developmental shift from outcome- to intention-based judgments.

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