Children's Attribution of Biological and Psychological Traits
Wagner, Amanda S.
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The current study intended to understand children's attribution of traits to animals and toys. Past research has shown that aliveness, capability of autonomous movement, and presence of a face all affected children's judgment and their willingness to attribute life traits to entities. The current study used entities that had varying degrees of these characteristics, creating more ambiguity in aliveness than previous studies had. The children's attribution of life traits was measured. The participants were thirty-two mother-child pairs including a 5-year-old or a 3-year-old. An activity session and an interview were the two components of the procedure. During the activity session the mother and child were allotted 5 min to play with each of 6 objects. The interview probed the child's attribution of properties to photographs of the 6 objects presented during the activity session and a photograph of a human. Data analyzed were children's responses to familiar property attribute questions from the interview. Results show a 3-way interaction between age of the child, category, and object. Therefore, older participants better understood characteristics of clearly living or clearly non-living entities. Participants had more difficulty determining characteristics of ambiguous entities as compared with clearly living entities and clearly non-living entities. Most importantly, across all four categories, the data show a trend in children's attribution of traits in accordance with the continuum from non-living to living entities. This finding may guide further research methods in an effort to understand the essential components of objects to which children attend when attributing life traits.