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Abstract

The present study examined whether young children's behaviors in the Dimensional Change Card Sorting task can be influenced by their observation of another person performing the task. Experiment 1 showed that after children watched an adult sorting cards according to one rule, although the children were instructed to sort the cards according to a new rule, most 3-year-olds made perseverative errors and used the observed, old rule to sort the cards instead of the new rule. However, only some 4-year-olds and few 5-year-olds made the same mistake. Experiments 2, 3 and 4 showed that the younger children took into consideration social pragmatic information displayed by the adult model when deciding to use the old rule or the new rule. When the model appeared to know that she sorted the cards incorrectly (Experiments 2 and 3), or was uncertain whether she sorted cards correctly (Experiment 4), most 3-year-olds no longer committed perseverative errors. When the adult model was confident about her sorting or oblivious to her sorting errors, most 3-year-olds made perseverative errors. These results taken together suggest that social observation can lead to disinhibitions. In other words, disinhibition can be transmitted socially from one person to another.