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

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Abstract

‘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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