A reexamination of developmental changes in causal attributions

Constance J. Dalenberg, Karen L. Bierman, Wyndol Furman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Examined young children's use of the presence or absence of extrinsic reward to make inferences about the intrinsic motivation of another person. Previous research indicates that most kindergartners do not use a discounting heuristic, but it was hypothesized that these children may have misinterpreted the questions asked. 19 boys and 19 girls from kindergarten, 2nd and 4th grade were presented stories about children who were rewarded or not rewarded for performing various activities. Two forms of questioning about motivation were compared. When a traditional form was used, kindergartners did not show evidence of a discounting heuristic. When the questions were adjusted to ask more specifically about intrinsic motivation, Ss at all grade levels appeared to use a discounting heuristic. Results are discussed in terms of the parameters of the attributional effects, the possible mechanisms responsible for the phenomena, and the significance of the findings for other developmental research using self-report techniques. (17 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-583
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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