Look, I can do it! Young children forego opportunities to teach others to demonstrate their own competence

AbstractWe not only care about what others think of the world, but also about what others think of us. The ability to understand what others think of one’s competence is especially important for young children, as they are beginning to learn about themselves and form new relationships with others. Here we ask whether young children can use others’ observations of their own failures and successes to infer others’ beliefs about the self’s competence, and would even forego an opportunity to teach new information in order to demonstrate their competence. In Exp. 1 (3, 4, & 5-year-olds), when a confederate had observed the child initially fail but eventually succeed at operating a toy, children chose to teach her a new toy; however, when the confederate had observed the initial failures but not the final success, more children chose to show the familiar toy again to demonstrate their competence. In Exp. 2 (3- & 4- year-olds), we replicate this finding. Even in preschool years, children can reason about what others of their own competence and strategically decide whether to communicate information about the self or the world; these results are discussed in light of prior work on reputation management and Theory of Mind.


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