Children’s Reasoning About Self-Presentation Following Rule Violations: The Role of Self-Focused Attention


  • We would like to express our thanks to the pupils and staff of the elementary schools that participated in the research. This research was funded by a project grant from the Economic and Social Research Council to Robin Banerjee and Mark Bennett, RES-062-23-0508.

concerning this article should be addressed to Robin Banerjee, School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, UK. Electronic mail may be sent to


Rule violations are likely to serve as key contexts for learning to reason about public identity. In an initial study with 91 children aged 4–9 years, social emotions and self-presentational concerns were more likely to be cited when children were responding to hypothetical vignettes involving social-conventional rather than moral violations. In 2 further studies with 376 children aged 4–9 years, experimental manipulations of self-focused attention (either by leading children to believe they were being video-recorded or by varying audience reactions to transgressions) were found to elicit greater attention to social evaluation following moral violations, although self-presentational concerns were consistently salient in the context of social-conventional violations. The role of rule transgressions in children’s emerging self-awareness and social understanding is discussed.