Abstraction, Inference, and Acceptance in Children's Processing of an Adult Model's Moral Judgments

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journal abstract

The effects of a common dimension within a model's performance on different aspects of observational learning were examined in two experiments. Children observed an adult female make a series of choices between alternative solutions to hypothetical moral dilemma situations. In the common-dimension conditions, the model either selected behavioral options that consistently reflected some form of social responsibility or picked solutions that consistently reflected the motive of avoiding harm to self. In the no-common-dimension condition, the model chose half social responsibility and half harm-avoidance answers. In Experiment 1 we tested children's ability to recall the model's moral judgments given the presence or absence of a common dimension. In Experiment 2 we examined children's attributions concerning the unobserved behavior of the model and their acceptance of the rule governing her responses as a guide for their own choices. As predicted, the presence of a common dimension facilitated recall of the model's choices, led children to infer that similar consistency would be found in her judgments about other moral issues, and resulted in modifications of the children's own responses to a test of moral reasoning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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