Lies, Mistakes, and Blessings: Defining and Characteristic Features in Conceptual Development

Journal of Cognition and Culture 1 (4):323-339 (2001)
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Abstract

In this study, we examined the extent to which young children can be influenced by the perceived blessed status of an actor in their evaluations of behavior as a lie or mistake. Children aged 4 and 5 years attending Catholic schools in an urban center in Northern Italy were provided with a situation in which two girls in church were blessed with holy water or shook the priest's hand. The girls were then placed in a setting in which each told a third girl that contaminated juice was good to drink: one deliberately lied and the other had no knowledge of the contaminant and made a mistake. Significantly more children judged both girls to have made a mistake in the blessed condition than in the not blessed condition. Their accuracy in distinguishing mistakes from lies in the not blessed condition resembled that reported in previous research in which traits such as blessedness were not assigned to the perpetrators. Thus children often perceived lying as uncharacteristic of the blessed whereas they applied the definition of lying as involving intentional falsehood for the not blessed. The results are discussed in terms of an early cultural cognition that involves beliefs about processes of purification and positive contagion.

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References found in this work

Affect, Culture, and Morality, Or Is It Wrong to Eat Your Dog?Jonathan Haidt, Silvia Helena Koller & Maria G. Dias - 1993 - Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65 (4):613-28.
Imagining the Impossible.Norwood Russell Hanson - 1958 - Analysis 19 (4):86 - 92.

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