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Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Young children's causal explanations are biased by post-action associative information
Author(s): Atance, Cristina M
Metcalf, Jennifer L
Martin-Ordas, Gema
Walker, Cheryl L
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Keywords: cognitive development
causal reasoning
theory of mind
Issue Date: Dec-2014
Citation: Atance CM, Metcalf JL, Martin-Ordas G & Walker CL (2014) Young children's causal explanations are biased by post-action associative information, Developmental Psychology, 50 (12), pp. 2675-2685.
Abstract: In a series of 4 experiments, we tested children’s understanding that the causes of their actions must necessarily be attributed to information known prior to (i.e., “pre-action” information), rather than after (i.e., “post-action” information), the completion of their actions. For example, children were shown a dog, asked to get some cheese to feed the dog, and then returned to discover a mouse. In Experiment 1, the majority of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds claimed that they had gotten the cheese to feed the mouse. In Experiments 2 and 3, we ruled out the possibilities that (1) children had forgotten the critical “pre-action” information (e.g., “dog”), and (2) children had merely attributed the cause of their action to the most recent item (e.g., “dog”) that they had seen. Finally, in Experiment 4, we determined that 7-year-olds, but not 6-year-olds, correctly attributed the cause of their action to the pre-action information, suggesting that this is the age at which children are no longer influenced by associative post-action information when explaining the causes of their actions. These results are discussed in terms of their relevance for causal reasoning, action explanation, and memory.
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