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Journal Article

The Effect of Reciprocity Norms on Moral Judgment and Causal Attribution

Thomas J. Berndt
Child Development
Vol. 48, No. 4 (Dec., 1977), pp. 1322-1330
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1128490
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1128490
Page Count: 9
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The Effect of Reciprocity Norms on Moral Judgment and Causal Attribution
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Abstract

Kindergarten children and adults were shown slides with an accompanying taped soundtrack which portrayed reciprocal and nonreciprocal aggressive and prosocial interactions. Following each episode, subjects' evaluations of the actor and their attributions concerning the cause of his behavior were obtained. Based on principles of attribution theory and hypotheses about reciprocity norms, more situational attributions and less extreme evaluations were predicted for reciprocal behavior. The predictions were confirmed for both age groups. Moreover, the evaluations made by the 2 groups were not significantly different. The results suggest that kindergarten children and adults accept reciprocity norms and that they use a similar process of interpreting and evaluating reciprocal interactions. However, further results suggested that adults have a more complex view of psychological causation and they more explicitly consider reciprocity norms. Finally, the use of evaluations as a measure of children's moral criteria was discussed.

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