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Theory Of Mind And Persuasion Abilities In Young Children

1527 words - 7 pages

Theory of mind is a child’s ability to understand mental states of not only of themselves but also of others, generally preschoolers take time to develop this but once they do they are able to conduct a variety of functions and see outside of their own perspectives. In the study, conducted by Slaughter, Peterson, and Moore they looked at the relationship between theory of mind (ToM) and persuasive abilities of young children, ages 3 to 8. Researchers hypothesized that there would be a positive correlation between the relationship between theory of mind and persuasive abilities and conducted what they called the peer persuasion task to determine children’s ability to persuade a peer like puppet named Matty into getting him to eat a raw piece of broccoli and brush his teeth (Slaughter, Peterson, & Moore, 2013).
In this task experimenters used the puppet who argued that eating broccoli and brushing his teeth, due to the tooth paste, was yucky and refused to do so, experimenters then encouraged children to do their best to generate a persuasive argument after each refusal, of which the puppet refused three times for each task before finally committing to the act. This process allowed children who had not given up or run out of ideas beforehand the opportunity to continue generating more persuasive arguments. With the tasks, experimenters also used motivation versus altruistic variables to see if it changed the way the child tried to persuade the puppet. The child was told that they would either gain a sticker if they got the puppet to complete the task (motivation) or (altruistic) that Matty would gain a sticker once he completed the task (Slaughter et al., 2013).
Researchers decided to score children based on the way they persuaded the puppet which were categorized into 4 groups and scored 3 ways: Simple injunction or query, shoving into mouth or commanding, which received no points; politeness modulation, saying please, received half a point, and lastly either positive or negative persuasive arguments or elaborations both of which, received one point (Slaughter et al., 2013). Results found that the total number of persuasive arguments children were able to generate, was significantly correlated with their theory of mind understanding and that the more positive persuasive arguments were positively correlated with ToM, but weakly and insignificantly correlated with negative persuasive arguments and politeness modulations (Slaughter et, al. 2013). Researchers also found that the use of motivation variable had no effect at all on children’s changes in persuasiveness, concluding that children’s ToM understanding was a significant predictor of children’s ability to come up with persuasive arguments, to change a peer’s mind. Based on their research, researchers generated that children’s ToM understanding may allow them to understand others mental states and using it to generate arguments to change it but there was also the possibility of opposite causal...

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