Children's Use of Frequency Information for Trait Categorization and Behavioral Prediction

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Two experiments examined young children's use of behavioral frequency information to make behavioral predictions and global personality attributions. In Experiment 1, participants heard about an actor who behaved positively or negatively toward 1 or several recipients. Generally, children did not differentiate their judgments of the actor on the basis of the amount of information provided. In Experiment 2, the actor behaved positively or negatively toward a single recipient once or repeatedly. Participants were more likely to make appropriate predictions and attributions after exposure to multiple target behaviors and with increasing age. Overall, children's performance was influenced by age-related positivity and negativity biases. These findings indicate that frequency information is important for personality judgments but that its use is affected by contextual complexity and information-processing biases.

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