Do you have a skunk story

Study results 2015/16


1 Study results 2015/16

2 Dear parents, dear children, How do children perceive the world? How do you think, how do you learn? - These are questions that we - the Göttingen kids - are concerned with. Göttingen Grownups is the name of a research group in the Department of Cognitive Developmental Psychology at the University of Göttingen, which started its work in 2009. Our aim is to use observations of child behavior to research and better understand the development process in children. To this end, our team conducts studies on the development of perception, thinking and learning with children in different age groups. We cooperate with numerous kindergartens in Göttingen, but we also carry out 26 studies in our rooms on Waldweg. In order to find out how even very young children perceive and understand their world, and how this understanding affects their actions, we are dependent on the active support of you as parents and of course your children in particular. In the past year, your great willingness and participation enabled us to carry out a large number of studies and to gain exciting new insights into child development. Thank you very much for that! Below is a summary of the studies carried out over the past year. Your team of the Göttingen Grownups

3 The cow is also a Blicket - Do children understand dual identities? We all know the myth of Oedipus, the Greek king who was in love with his mother Yocaste but did not know that his lover was his mother too. Yocaste unites two identities: the mother and the lover. If we now assume that Oedipus is planning to marry his beloved, this does not allow us to also assume that he is planning to marry his mother. Because Oedipus is not sure about this. In this case we speak of an intensional context: a context in which assumptions cannot be transferred to all identities. What adults take for granted poses a difficulty for children. However, previous research has not yet been able to clearly show when children are able to overcome this difficulty. Previous results vary in terms of age between 4 and 7 years. But why is that? On closer inspection of the studies carried out to date on this question, we noticed that the scenarios that were presented to the children were often hardly relevant for the children.

4 In our study we wanted to find out how well children can understand dimensional contexts when they are actively part of the scenario and the scenario has direct consequences for them. For this reason, five- and six-year-olds built farms with the hand puppet Lola. It then turned out that the animals on the farms had two identities: On the one hand, they were e.g. a cow and on the other hand - which the children only found out later - a Blicket or a Zicket. For each Blicket, Lola and the child had to hand in a sticker, no sticker had to be given for a Zicket. The child was allowed to take the rest of the stickers home with them. In order to check whether the children had understood the intensional context, the children were asked whether Lola, when she was at the beginning, e.g. the cow pulled, knew it was a Blicket. It turned out that in our interactive game, children as early as five years old were able to correctly answer that Lola did not know this, as it was only later explained that it was e.g. the cow was a Blicket. However, it made no difference to the children whether the scenario resulted in the loss of the sticker or not. In this study, we were able to show that children, if they are involved in the scenario themselves, can understand intentional contexts at an early age and that it is irrelevant for children what consequences this scenario has for themselves.

5 Britta Schünemann, Marina Josephs, Lisa Wenzel, Tanya Behne & Hannes Rakoczy (2015). The influence of relevance on the understanding of intensional contexts.

6 Ignorance does not protect against punishment How do children incorporate knowledge into their moral judgments? In this study, we examined how children assess various rule violations. We looked at how children of different age groups react when a person does not know that their action is breaking a rule or causing harm to someone else. The children were shown various videos in which different hand puppets knowingly or unknowingly broke a rule. The children were asked to judge these actions by asking whether the actors had done something wrong, whether they thought they were nice or bad, or should be punished. In addition, the children were allowed to distribute stickers to the puppets and thus indirectly punish them. By asking about their favorite doll, the children were also able to show their preferences. On the one hand, we compared three age groups (4-, 5- and 7-year-olds) and, on the other hand, set up two different rule groups: for moral and for conventional events. A moral violation of the rules existed, for example. that the grandmother's favorite flowers were fertilized incorrectly and therefore withered. Conventional violations were, for example, that actors

They took 7 oils that they were not allowed to take for unknown reasons. The results showed that states of knowledge were only included in the judgment of moral and conventional norm violations from the age of 7. Here, the children condemned an unknowingly wrong actor less strongly than a knowingly wrong actor. 4-year-olds were not yet able to do this, as were 5-year-olds, although it was shown in the latter that moral violations were rated as more reprehensible than conventional rule violations. Marina Josephs, Ninja Gerdemann, Maja Zieriacks, Joscha Franke, Iris Haderer, Leonie Schettler, Antonia Langenhoff & Hannes Rakoczy (2015). Intentions first beliefs later: children s differential evaluation of prescriptive norm transgressions. (Bachelor theses)

8 biscuit or building block - how do children categorize? In a well-known study, psychologist Frank Keil told test participants the story of a raccoon that was adopted by a skunk family. Little by little, this raccoon changed its appearance so that after a while it looked exactly like a skunk. Although he was no longer externally distinguishable from his adoptive skunk family, adults and children from around four years of age continued to classify the animal as a raccoon, not a skunk. The panelists apparently believed that the internal features were more important than the external. In many other contexts, too, it has been shown that people behave as if the things that surround them had a deeper essence that makes them what they are. This phenomenon is called psychological essentialism. The skunk story, and most of the other stories that have been used to examine the phenomenon of psychological essentialism, are relatively complex. Children need to have a certain level of language skills in order to be able to understand the stories and their details at all.

9 We are currently trying to find out whether children who are not yet able to speak or who are just beginning to speak may already show the phenomenon of psychological essentialism if a less complex test is used. To this end, together with Prof. Dr. Cacchione developed an experiment in which the children's behavior and not their language skills matter. In the first part of this experiment, two plates are held out to the children. There is a small round building block on one of the plates and a biscuit on the other. The children can choose which of the two objects they want by pointing to it. Almost all children here show a clear preference for the delicious biscuit. In the second part of the experiment, the biscuit and the building block are transformed. The children see how both are placed in a mold and coated with baby food so that they look the same. The exciting question now is: do the little ones continue to choose the biscuit they prefer? Or do they no longer make a distinction between biscuits and building blocks and just randomly choose one and then the other? The current status of the results shows that children aged 18 months usually still choose at random if the biscuit and the building block look the same. Children from around two years of age, on the other hand, almost always choose the biscuit they prefer. So, just like the older children and adults in the skunk story, they seem to care more about internal traits than that

10 exterior. However, we will only be able to say for sure in a few months, when the study is completed, whether already two-year-olds show the phenomenon of psychological essentialism.

11 Are 4-year-olds able to accurately assess right and wrong beliefs of others? Understanding other people's beliefs and perspectives is a matter of course for us adults in everyday life. However, research with children has shown that this ability only develops from the age of four. This can be seen, for example, in a well-known developmental psychological scenario in which the child, a hand puppet, two boxes and an object are played with. While everyone is watching, the object is placed in one of the boxes. In the absence of the puppet, the object is taken out of one box and hidden in the other. In this scenario, only four-year-olds are able to predict that the previously absent hand puppet will be looking for the item in the wrong box. Children also seem to only be able to take into account different perspectives on the identities of an object from the age of four and only then do they understand that other people can have false beliefs about the identity of an object. For example, the hand puppet only knows an obvious identity of an object (for example a pen), but is ignorant of the fact that it

It is seldom that if you shake it, children can only tell from the age of four which identities of the object the hand puppet knows and which it does not. To make sure that the children understood the requirements of the task, a supposedly simpler version of these scenarios was developed for this study. The hand puppet observes how the object changes location and now knows exactly where it is. Or the second, non-obvious identity of the object is explained to her in front of the child. The assumption of perspective in the case of such true beliefs should - in contrast to false beliefs - not pose a problem in child development from an early age. The understanding of both scenarios was recently explored by American scientists on six-year-old children with startling results: predicting false beliefs did not seem to be a difficult task; On the other hand, the children could not ascribe true convictions. Six-year-old children therefore predicted that the hand puppet, although they had recently seen very clearly that the object had been placed elsewhere, would still look in the wrong place. However, since we assume that children from the age of four can predict both types of beliefs, namely wrong and right, we changed the experiment used by combining both beliefs in a meaningful way:

13 Instead of using a hand puppet, we played the game with two puppets, the horse and the monkey. While the horse had a wrong belief because it did not see that we had taken a toy car out of one box and hidden it in another, the monkey could see that the place had changed - and thus had a true belief. In another experiment, both animals knew the obvious property of the object (e.g. a pen), but only the monkey also knew the second, hidden one, namely that it rattled when you shook it. The results showed that the four-year-olds were perfectly able to understand and predict both types of other people's beliefs. Our study is also an example of how important it is to design our experiments in a logical and meaningful way. In the original experiment, children were only presented with one true or one false belief, which is a pointless situation for children. Within our study, we were able to create a convincing, meaningful story and thus show what four-year-old children are actually capable of. Nese Oktay-Gür, Carina Neumann, Lisa Wenzel, Hannes Rakoczy (2015). Competence depends on the right question meaningful settings show stable true belief competences (Bachelor and Master thesis).

14 Do we automatically put ourselves in other people's shoes? In social situations it can be useful to be able to empathize with other people, e.g. to comfort children who have just tripped or to be happy with others who have just received good news. If children are consciously asked to put themselves in someone's shoes, they can do so from around 4-5 years. Research is currently being conducted into whether we can automatically, without being asked, put ourselves in the shoes of other people and predict how they will behave. This phenomenon is known as the implicit theory of mind. Implicit theory of mind is measured with so-called eye trackers. These devices can measure where someone is looking - and usually we look where we expect something exciting to happen. So, if children can predict that someone will soon exhibit exciting behavior (e.g. taking a toy out of a box), they will see where they expect that behavior to be. In the current study, we were interested in how reliable this effect is. To this end, we showed children, adults and seniors various videos showing the behavior of the actors

15 predicted. Based on the eye movements, only adult test subjects showed predictions of the behavior of other people. Neither children nor seniors automatically predicted the behavior. These results show that even when we are able to empathize with other people when prompted, we do not always do so automatically. Adults are more likely to put themselves in the shoes of others, but not children and seniors. But what are the circumstances in order for us to put ourselves in the shoes of others? We will deal with this question further in future studies. Louisa Kulke, Marieke Wübker, Lisa Wenzel, Josefin Johannsen, Julie Driebe & Hannes Rakoczy (2016). How reliable and valid are anticipatory looking measures in theory of mind task? (Research internships).

16 Multitasking in Kindergarten How Do Children Shift Their Attention? In everyday life it is important to be able to shift attention as quickly as possible, be it from the buddy on the other side of the street to the car that is approaching or from your notebook to the blackboard and back at school. When no other objects of interest are visible in our field of vision, it is easy for us to draw attention to something. However, it becomes difficult when we first have to detach our attention from something interesting in order to focus it on something new. Eye movement studies in which the movements of the eyes are recorded with the help of an eye tracker (Kulke et al., 2015) have shown that we are significantly slower in shifting attention when two objects are in competition for our attention, and so are we move our eyes to the new object later. In the current study, we examined whether this also applies to manual reactions to new objects. We developed the zebra game for this purpose: On a tablet, children helped the zebra to invite all of its friends for a birthday by tapping them as quickly as possible on a tour through the savannah.

17 Sometimes only one zebra was visible and sometimes several. It was measured how quickly the children reacted to this. The results showed that between 2 and 6 years of age there is strong development and children in this age range are significantly faster in reacting to new zebras. However, compared to eye movements, manual responses were less affected by how many objects were in the field of view. This shows that our eye movements are a more sensitive measure of divided attention. Marieke Wübker, Louisa Kulke & Hannes Rakoczy (2016). Attention shifts in preschoolers: A tablet study (research internship).

18 do I believe you? - How children accept advice. Assessing meaningful situations and making decisions are processes that have an essential meaning in our lives. Whether they are of greater significance or whether they are part of our daily routine - they accompany us from earliest childhood through our entire life and have a decisive influence on our development and our career. In most cases, judgments and decisions are made in a social context - whether desired or not, we often receive advice in the form of assessments, opinions or recommendations from other people.The question arises, how advice is dealt with at all. Many studies show that adults are often resistant to advice. The latest research, on the other hand, has revealed that children may even be too willing to give advice and therefore fail to make optimal judgments and decisions. So why is it that children become more resistant to advice as they grow up? In this study, we examined whether this transition was due to a better understanding of intellectual property. Do children aged six to eight understand their own judgments as their own property and are thereby advised

19 more resistant because they don't want to lose their property? To investigate this, we had children complete an estimation task. In this, the children fed fish and had to estimate the amount of food on the basis of a number of characteristics. To do this, they had to make a preliminary estimate of the amount of feed, then received advice and then had to make a final judgment. It was shown that children with a better understanding of intellectual property were less likely to use advice. Nevertheless, the children used the advice 65% overall, while 50% would be optimal. Unfortunately, we were not able to observe the transition from excessive use of advice to advice resistance, but we did find further indications that this is, among other things, related to the understanding of intellectual property. Soheyl Zakpur, Julie Driebe, Christoph Ehrling, Thomas Schulze and Hannes Rakoczy (2016). The use of advice by six- to eight-year-old children in the Judge-Advisor System (master's thesis).

20 Göttingen Grownups Address Waldweg Göttingen Telephone 0551 / Mail Web Here you will find a link to our scientific work under «Study results»