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Abstract

The present study examined the emergence of flattery behavior in young children and factors that might affect whether and how it is displayed. Preschool children between the ages of 3 and 6 years were asked to rate drawings produced by either a present or absent adult stranger (Experiments 1 and 2), child stranger (Experiments 2 and 3), classmate, or the children's own teacher (Experiment 3). Young preschoolers gave consistent ratings to the same drawing by the person regardless of whether the person was absent or present. In contrast, many older preschoolers gave more flattering ratings to the drawing when the person was present than in the person's absence. Also, older preschoolers displayed flattery regardless of whether the recipient was an adult or a child. However, they displayed flattery to a greater extent towards familiar individuals than unfamiliar ones, demonstrating an emerging sensitivity to social contexts in which flattery is used. These findings suggest that preschoolers have already learned not to articulate bluntly their true feelings and thoughts about others. Rather, they are able to manipulate their communications according to social context.