Three- and 5-year-old children's understanding of how to dissolve a joint commitment.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

When young children form a joint commitment with a partner, they understand that this agreement generates obligations. In this study, we investigated whether young children understand that joint commitments, and their associated obligations, may likewise be dissolved by agreement. The participants (3- and 5-year-olds; N = 144) formed a joint commitment with a puppet to play a collaborative game. In one condition, the puppet asked permission to break off and the children agreed; in a second condition, the puppet notified the children of his or her leaving; and in a third condition, the puppet just left abruptly. Children at both ages protested more and waited longer for the puppet's return (and said that the puppet deserved scolding and no prize at the end) when the puppet left abruptly than in the other two conditions (with "asking permission" leading to the least protest of all). Overall, 3-year-olds protested more, and waited longer for the partner's return, than 5-year-olds. Preschool children understand that the obligations of a joint commitment may be dissolved by agreement or, to a lesser degree, by notification.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Kachel, U; Svetlova, M; Tomasello, M

Published Date

  • August 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 184 /

Start / End Page

  • 34 - 47

PubMed ID

  • 30999155

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1096-0457

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-0965

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jecp.2019.03.008


  • eng