The reasons young children give to peers when explaining their judgments of moral and conventional rules.


Journal Article

Moral justifications work, when they do, by invoking values that are shared in the common ground of the interlocutors. We asked 3- and 5-year-old peer dyads (N = 144) to identify and punish norm transgressors. In the moral condition, the transgressor violated a moral norm (e.g., by stealing); in the social rules condition, she/he violated a context-specific rule (e.g., by placing a yellow toy in a green box, instead of a yellow box). Children in both age groups justified their punishment in the social rules condition mostly by referring to the rule (e.g., "He must put yellow toys in the yellow box"). In contrast, in the moral condition they mostly justified their punishment by simply referring to the observed fact (e.g., "He stole"), seeing no need to state the norm involved (e.g., "He must not steal"), presumably because they assumed this as part of their moral common ground with their partner. These results suggest that preschoolers assume certain common ground moral values with their peers and use these in formulating explicit moral judgments and justifications. (PsycINFO Database Record

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Mammen, M; Köymen, B; Tomasello, M

Published Date

  • February 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 54 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 254 - 262

PubMed ID

  • 29058938

Pubmed Central ID

  • 29058938

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-0599

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0012-1649

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/dev0000424


  • eng