Strong and strategic conformity understanding by 3- and 5-year-old children

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‘Strong conformity’ corresponds to the public endorsement of majority opinions that are in blatant contradiction to one's own correct perceptual judgements of the situation. We tested strong conformity inference by 3- and 5-year-old children using a third-person perspective paradigm. Results show that at neither age, children spontaneously expect that an ostracized third-party individual who wants to affiliate with the majority group will show strong conformity. However, when questioned as to what the ostracized individual should do to befriend others, from 5 years of age children explicitly demonstrate that they construe strong conformity as a strategic means of social affiliation. Additional data suggest that strong and strategic conformity understanding from an observer's third-person perspective is linked to the passing of the language-mediated false belief theory of mind task, an index of children's emerging ‘meta’ ability to construe the mental state of others.

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