Recent work has shown that preschool-aged children and adults understand freedom of choice regardless of culture, but that adults across cultures differ in perceiving social obligations as constraints on action. To investigate the development of these cultural differences and universalities, we interviewed school-aged children (4–11) in Nepal and the United States regarding beliefs about people's freedom of choice and constraint to follow preferences, perform impossible acts, and break social obligations. Children across cultures and ages universally endorsed the choice to follow (...) preferences but not to perform impossible acts. Age and culture effects also emerged: Young children in both cultures viewed social obligations as constraints on action, but American children did so less as they aged. These findings suggest that while basic notions of free choice are universal, recognitions of social obligations as constraints on action may be culturally learned. (shrink)
Recent work suggests a strong connection between intuitions regarding our own free will and our moral behavior. We investigate the origins of this link by asking whether preschool-aged children construe their own moral actions as freely chosen. We gave children the option to make three moral/social choices (avoiding harm to another, following a rule, and following peer behavior) and then asked them to retrospect as to whether they were free to have done otherwise. When given the choice to act (either (...) morally or immorally), children avoided harm and abided by rules, but they endorsed their freedom to have done otherwise. When choice was restricted by adult instruction, children did not endorse their free choice and indicated feeling constrained by moral obligation in their explanatory responses. These results suggest that children believe that their moral actions afford free will, but this belief is dependent on their experience of choice. (shrink)
Children learn from people and about people simultaneously; that is, children consider evidentiary qualities of human actions which cross traditional domain boundaries. We propose that Knobe's moral asymmetries are a natural consequence of this learning process: the way gather evidence for causation, intention, and morality through early social experiences.