The accidental transgressor: Morally-relevant theory of mind

Melanie Killen, Kelly Lynn Mulvey, Cameron Richardson, Noah Jampol, Amanda Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

180 Scopus citations

Abstract

To test young children's false belief theory of mind in a morally relevant context, two experiments were conducted. In Experiment 1, children (N= 162) at 3.5, 5.5, and 7.5. years of age were administered three tasks: prototypic moral transgression task, false belief theory of mind task (ToM), and an " accidental transgressor" task, which measured a morally-relevant false belief theory of mind (MoToM). Children who did not pass false belief ToM were more likely to attribute negative intentions to an accidental transgressor than children who passed false belief ToM, and to use moral reasons when blaming the accidental transgressor. In Experiment 2, children (N= 46) who did not pass false belief ToM viewed it as more acceptable to punish the accidental transgressor than did participants who passed false belief ToM. Findings are discussed in light of research on the emergence of moral judgment and theory of mind.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-215
Number of pages19
JournalCognition
Volume119
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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