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Keywords:

  • childhood development;
  • social values;
  • reasoning;
  • cross-cultural differences

Abstract

Children's reasoning about the appropriateness of accepting credit for one's own prosocial behavior was examined. Participants aged 7–11 years old in Japan and the USA (total N = 206) were presented with a series of stories in which a protagonist performs a good deed and is asked about it by another character. Across stories, the protagonist either truthfully acknowledges the deed or falsely denies it, in a statement that is made either in public or in private, and is addressed to either a teacher or to a peer. As predicted, Japanese children judged protagonists less favorably when they acknowledged the good deed in public rather than in private. Further, Japanese children tended to view modest lies more favorably overall than did children in the USA. These results point to the importance of modesty in Japan and to the ways in which Japanese children take into account the social context of communication when deciding whether it is appropriate for individuals to convey information about themselves.