Learning to navigate social situations is an important part of growing up. Some cognitive scientists study children in order to develop a better sense of how children perceive other people and how this might affect their social interactions.
Previous research has shown that adults act differently when others are watching them, compared to when they are alone. Even subtle cues that someone may be watching (like a picture of someone’s eyes on the wall) can cause adults to monitor their behavior more closely. In this study, we want to know if children are similarly self-conscious when they think someone might be watching them.
To find out, we ask children to toss a colored coin behind a private, screened off area, and to tell us whenever the coin lands on the blue side. Each time the child tells us that the coin landed on blue, he or she receives a sticker. For some children, we will place a picture of someone’s eyes on the wall within the screened off area. We want to know whether the suggestion that there is someone watching could change children’s responses in this situation.
We predict that children under age 7 might ignore the eyes, and will behave similarly whether they think someone is watching or not. Children over age 8 might be more self-conscious of their behavior when others are watching, and may change their responses when the picture of the eyes is nearby.
This study will help us understand how children view themselves in social settings. By studying how and when children come to understand the implications of their actions, we hope to gain insight into our ability to cooperate with others in daily life.
Learn about other research related to Reasoning about Social Situations.
This research is conducted by the Child Cognition Lab at Boston University