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Comprehension of the Objectivity-Subjectivity Distinction in Childhood and Early Adolescence

Fred Rothbaum
Child Development
Vol. 50, No. 4 (Dec., 1979), pp. 1184-1191
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1129347
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1129347
Page Count: 8
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Comprehension of the Objectivity-Subjectivity Distinction in Childhood and Early Adolescence
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Abstract

Children aged 7, 10, and 14 years were administered questions and an imitation task to assess their comprehension of the objectivity-subjectivity distinction. Objective matters were defined as those with consensually agreed upon defining criteria and were operationalized as judgments of age. Subjective matters were defined as those without consensually agreed upon defining criteria and were operationalized as judgments of attractiveness. The imitation measure consisted of sets of photographs on which children judged the age or attractiveness of unfamiliar persons (i. e., photographs). Randomly determined responses, attributed to parents or unfamiliar adults, appeared under 1 photograph in each set. As predicted, children's responses to questions regarding objective and subjective matters showed a progression from overinclusive objectivity to an ability to clearly distinguish between objective and subjective matters. Also as predicted, imitation on objective (age) judgments was greater than imitation on subjective (attractiveness) judgments for older children but not for younger children. Most important, the difference between imitation of objective and subjective judgments was greater for children who comprehended the objectivity-subjectivity distinction than for those who did not. The present findings and interpretations are consistent with and help clarify findings and interpretations provided in research on perspective taking and conformity.

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