The Effect of Psychological Distance on Children’s Reasoning about Future Preferences

dc.contributor.authorLee, Wendy S. C.
dc.contributor.authorAtance, Cristina M.
dc.description.abstractYoung preschool-aged children often have difficulty thinking about the future, but tend to reason better about another person's future than their own. This benefit may reflect psychological distance from one's own emotions, beliefs, and states that may bias thinking. In adults, reasoning for others who are more socially distant (i.e., dissimilar, unfamiliar other) is associated with wiser and more adaptive reasoning. The current studies examined whether this effect of social distance could be demonstrated in young children's future thinking. In a future preferences task, 3- and 4-year-olds were shown 5 pairs of child and adult items and selected which ones they would prefer when grown-up. Children answered for themselves, a socially close peer, or a socially distant peer. Social distance was manipulated by varying similarity in Study 1 and familiarity in Study 2. In Study 1, reasoning for similar and dissimilar peers was significantly more accurate than reasoning for the self, but reasoning for similar and dissimilar peers did not differ. In Study 2, scores showed a step-wise increase from self, familiar peer, to unfamiliar peer, but only reasoning for an unfamiliar peer was significantly better more accurate than reasoning for the self. Reasoning for a familiar peer did not differ from reasoning for the self or for an unfamiliar peer. These results suggest that, like adults, children benefit from psychological distance when reasoning for others, but are less sensitive to degrees of social distance, showing no graded effects on performance in Study 1 and weak effects in Study 2. Stronger adult-like effects may only emerge with increasing age and development of other socio-cognitive skills.
dc.subjectChild, Preschool
dc.subjectPeer Group
dc.subjectRecognition (Psychology)
dc.subjectSocial Distance
dc.titleThe Effect of Psychological Distance on Children’s Reasoning about Future Preferences
CollectionPublications en libre accès financées par uOttawa // uOttawa financed open access publications

Lee, Effect, 2016.PDF1.16 MBAdobe PDFOpen