Children's ability to learn and reason about preferences /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Garvin, Laura Elizabeth, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (139 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Amanda L. Woodward Committee members: Katherine D. Kinzler; Susan C. Levine; Lindsey E. Richland.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-02(E), Section: B.
Summary:For decades, one of the most popular topics of study in developmental psychology has been how young children develop an understanding of how minds work, or theory of mind. This dissertation focuses specifically on children's developing understanding of preferences -- what people like and dislike. Although previous literature has argued that children have a well-developed understanding of preferences even in infancy, in this dissertation I explore two understudied aspects of preference understanding where young children struggle to reason about others' preferences and show development through early childhood. The first section describes a series of studies investigating whether children and adults will spontaneously use the statistical patterns in a person's choices to infer her preferences, even in the absence of any contextual information. The results show that from preschool through middle childhood, children become increasingly likely to spontaneously infer preferences from choices, with preference inferences becoming highly robust by adulthood. In the second section, I discuss three studies exploring young children's ability to generalize preference information across contexts. The results demonstrate that 3-year-old children believe a person's preferences will remain consistent from one situation to another (e.g., from one day at home to the next day at school), but 2-year-olds are unable to transfer preference information even over relatively minimal changes in context (e.g., from one room to another room two minutes later). Together, these findings provide insight into how children learn about others' mental states and use mental state information to guide social interactions.