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The Development of Person Perception in Childhood and Adolescence: From Behavioral Comparisons to Psychological Constructs to Psychological Comparisons

Carl Barenboim
Child Development
Vol. 52, No. 1 (Mar., 1981), pp. 129-144
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1129222
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1129222
Page Count: 16
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The Development of Person Perception in Childhood and Adolescence: From Behavioral Comparisons to Psychological Constructs to Psychological Comparisons
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Abstract

A developmental sequence of 3 person perception processes is proposed and examined in the current set of experiments, using an open-ended, person-description task. Posited as coming first in the causal chain are "behavioral comparisons," in which children describe others by comparing them along behavioral dimensions. Comparing people's behaviors should eventually lead to the child's creation and use of inferred, stable, and dynamic attributes about others, termed "psychological constructs." In turn, a new comparison process would be created (termed "psychological comparisons") in which children would use the newly created psychological constructs to compare persons. Experiment 1 used children of ages 10, 12, 14, and 16 and indicated that psychological comparisons increased most sharply between the 10-12-year-old groups. In experiment 2, children of ages 6, 8, and 10 were interviewed, and reinterviewed 1 year later. Results from this hybrid cross-sectional/longitudinal design indicated that: (a) behavioral comparisons first increased and then decreased, (b) psychological constructs increased after behavioral comparisons did, and (c) psychological comparisons increased only in the oldest age group. Additional analyses, including the prediction of children's use of higher levels of person perception from their developmentally prior use of lower levels, gave strong support to the proposed sequence. In Experiment 3, a proposed relationship between late adolescents' person perception levels and their recognition of psychological disorder was investigated and supported by the results.

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