Predicting How People Feel: Ownership Matters for Preschoolers

Madison PesowskiUniversity of Waterloo
Ori FriedmanUniversity of Waterloo

Abstract

Ownership is central in our thinking about other people and objects. We consider ownership when deciding whether we are permitted to use an object and when predicting how owners would feel if their property was lost or broken. Recognizing and understanding ownership is not just evident in adults. Even young children appreciate ownership and its consequences. In this experiment, we show that children aged three years (N = 40) predict that an individual would be sadder when her property went missing than when someone else’s property went missing. These findings show that young children have a rich appreciation of ownership, and grasp relations between ownership and psychological states.

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