Understanding Perspectives and Emotions in Contract Violation: Development of Deontic and Moral Reasoning

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Abstract

Children between the ages of 3 and 10 years were presented with a set of pictures representing a contract with bilateral cheating options between a parent and child (Study 1) and between 2 peers (Study 2). The children had to (a) evaluate which situations violated the contract when the relevant information was presented, (b) anticipate the feelings of the violator and the victim, and (c) infer possible contract violation from 2 different perspectives when relevant information was covered. Results show that logical inferences about contract violation differ according to the type of task. Negative feelings attributed to the violator were dependent on age and type of relationship, revealing a content-sensitive codevelopment of cognitive abilities and moral reasoning in young children.

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