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The Perception of Social Conventionality by Children and Adults

Howard Gabennesch
Child Development
Vol. 61, No. 6 (Dec., 1990), pp. 2047-2059
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130858
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130858
Page Count: 13
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The Perception of Social Conventionality by Children and Adults
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Abstract

Numerous studies have found that by late childhood individuals recognize conventional norms as social contrivances that are arbitrary, relative, and changeable. However, this conclusion conflicts with other evidence that children and adults "reify" social formations by apprehending them as something other than social products. For example, it is difficult to reconcile the phenomenon of ethnocentrism with the image of people who perceive their social worlds as arbitrary and relative. Most of the studies have questioned respondents about comparatively "transparent" rules, that is, those whose arbitrary human origins are evident. Moreover, the customary questions used to measure perceived conventionality are often simplistic indicators of a complex phenomenon. The result is an exaggerated portrayal of children's and adults' awareness of the conventionality of the social world.

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