Young children mostly keep, and expect others to keep, their promises.
Promises are speech acts that create an obligation to do the promised action. In three studies, we investigated whether 3- and 5-year-olds (N=278) understand the normative implications of promising in prosocial interactions. In Study 1, children helped a partner who promised to share stickers. When the partner failed to uphold the promise, 3- and 5-year-olds protested and referred to promise norms. In Study 2, when children in this same age range were asked to promise to continue a cleaning task-and they agreed-they persisted longer on the task and mentioned their obligation more frequently than without such a promise. They also persisted longer after a promise than after a cleaning reminder (Study 3). In prosocial interactions, thus, young children feel a normative obligation to keep their promises and expect others to keep their promises as well.
Kanngiesser, P; Köymen, B; Tomasello, M
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