The development of preschoolers’ understanding of culpability
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The effect of outcome and intention on children’s moral judgment is much debated in developmental literature. Combining this debate with norm understanding literature we investigated children’s ability to understand intentions and norm violators’ culpability in a given situation. 4-year-olds were randomly assigned to two different groups that involve a puppet either intentionally violates a norm or violates the norm based on a false belief. Further, we investigated other sociocognitive abilities that may influence children’s understanding of intentions and culpability. Theory of mind Battery (Wellman & Liu, 2004), Change in location False Belief Task (Wimmer & Perner, 1983) and standard Executive Functions task (Zelazo, 2006) are tested in each participant. Regarding protest behavior during transgression and tattling behavior after transgression as salient markers of children’s understanding of intention and culpability, the result shows that children tattle more when a norm violation is done with an intention to violate the rule as compared to the same norm violation that is done based on a false belief about the situation. In other words, 4 year-olds do understand intentions and decide transgressors culpability by incorporating the mental state of the transgressor. Moreover, children who could not pass the explicit false belief tasks show the same pattern in tattling while the ones who passed at least one of the explicit false belief tasks show no difference in tattling among conditions. Taken together, 4-year-olds understand and comprehend intention information especially when they do not have explicit false belief understanding.