Children’s reasoning about violations of authenticity

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Schepp, Brooke Jessica

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When do children begin to realize that the authenticity of an object is not inherent to an object itself, but instead depends on the information one has about the object in question? In two studies I investigated elementary school children’s reasoning about authenticity violations. How we reason about authenticity violations, or cases in which the purported history of an item is shown to be false, is important in that it provides an example of how people can reason about the underlying, non-obvious features of objects. Participants (N= 64, ages 7-9) were first asked to rate the value of a series of everyday objects using a Likert scale (one to ten). Next, information about the individual history of these objects was presented and participants were asked to re-rate them and provide explanations for their ratings. Using a between-subjects design, participants were then informed that the information they had been given about the objects’ histories was the result of intentional deception (Study One) or a mistake (Study Two) and were again asked to re-rate the objects and provide explanations for their ratings. Results from value ratings and explanations from both studies indicate that elementary school children are sensitive to the authentic nature of objects as well as intentional and accidental violations of authenticity. I propose that reasoning about associative essences, a novel term described in this paper, can be productively examined using violation of authenticity paradigms, providing insight into the development of reasoning about authenticity.




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