Children's "naive psychology": The use of behavioral and situational information for the prediction of behavior

Diane N. Ruble, Leonard S. Newman, William S. Rholes, Jennifer Altshuler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Two studies are reported that concern children's use of situational and behavioral information to predict the behavior of other persons. It was hypothesized that younger subjects would give more weight to the former and older subjects, more weight to the latter type of information. In Experiment 1, subjects were presented with vignettes relevant to assessing actors' athletic abilities and personality traits (generosity/stinginess) as well as information about related situations. Subjects then made predictions for actors' future behavior in the latter situations. Predictions made by older subjects (8-9 years old) were consistent with the previous behavioral information presented, whereas this was true to a lesser degree for predictions made by younger subjects (5-6 years old). In Experiment 2, 5- to 6-year-olds again made behavioral predictions, with the information supplied by the vignettes being either visually salient or not. The results replicated the findings of Experiment 1 and partially supported the idea that young children's tendency not to relate past to future behavior may best be characterized as a production deficiency. However, they also suggest that although young children may indeed show a tendency to see behavior as under external control, they do not automatically accord information about the situation special status when making social judgments. In addition, it seems that conflicting results in the literature may result from the sensitivity to contextual factors of younger children's predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-112
Number of pages24
JournalCognitive Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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