Children’s Emerging Ability to Make Inferences About Social Power
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Being a sophisticated social agent requires some ability to track and navigate the social hierarchy. Recent research has explored the way that children begin to make inferences about power and suggests that children are able to pick up on social power from different cues. The current studies examined whether or not children and adults can make generalizations about power from single dyadic interactions. Adults read descriptions of brief interactions and were asked questions to ascertain whether they thought power generalized across situations and people (Study 1). We also read the scenarios with dolls to 4- to 10-year-old children (Study 2). Finally, we tested whether dominance or submissiveness was more salient to children using the same style vignettes as the two previous studies (Study 3). Findings showed that adults are able to make generalizations about power both from situation to situation as well as individual to individual, whereas only children from ages 7- to 10-year-olds made generalizations within a specific power relationship. Children from 7- to 10-years old could make generalizations across agents only using dominance as a cue, showing that it is more salient than submissiveness. Younger children were not able to make generalizations at all. This portrays the ability to make generalizations from single dyadic interactions is an ability that emerges through development.