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Adolescent Causal Reasoning

Question:


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Ages:

How do adolescents reason about the causes of other people's actions and the causes of physical events in the world?

This study explores how older children and teens reason about the causes of other people's actions as well as the causes of physical events. In one game, your child will see two dolls interacting with some toys and will answer a series of questions about why the dolls are playing or not playing with particular toys. They will also participate in a game in which they will see different types of blocks activate a machine that lights up and plays music and will be asked what types of blocks make the machine go. If they are interested in helping out, your child will receive a $10 gift card afterward to thank them for participating!

12 - 14 year olds


Optimism

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Ages:

Adults, particularly western adults, tend to be irrationally optimistic about what the future holds.  However, Japanese adults tend to not display similar levels of over-optimism.  Little research has been conducted with young children, particularly cross-cultural research. We are currently investigating the development of over-optimism in children in the U.S. and Peru.


In an egg version of this task, children are randomized into one of two conditions, an experimental and control condition. 

Children are shown a bag of eggs with two colors of eggs – blue eggs or yellow eggs.
They are shown that the eggs are composed primarily of only one of the colors (e.g. 8 of one color and 2 of the other color). 
They are asked to guess what color they will blindly select from the bag.

Experimental Condition:
Children are told that if they randomly draw the less probable color from the bag, they will receive a reward. 

Control Condition:
Children receive a reward regardless of which color egg they select from the bag.

4 - 10 year olds


Eggsploration

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Ages:

How are children motivated by the potential to gain information as opposed to the potential to gain a reward? 

In this study, children play a game with two boxes full of colorful Easter eggs. Children are told that some of the eggs have stickers inside, and are told about the distribution of stickers in each box. Sometimes, one box will have more stickers than the other box. Additionally, children may be told exactly which eggs have stickers inside, or they may be told that it's a "mystery" that they can figure out by opening the eggs. Children then choose one of the boxes of eggs to play with. We're interested in which box children choose, as well as which eggs (and how many eggs) they choose to open from that box. This study will tell us how children reason about information and reward when deciding what to explore.

4 - 8 year olds


DevMo

Question:

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Ages:

Do children prefer stable or unstable causal relationships?

Children are presented with two toys that sometimes light up when they are placed on a special "machine". The children complete several tasks to figure out the patterns of activation for each toy, and then make guesses about how the toys would behave on a new machine.

4 - 7 year olds


ChEx

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Do children use information from explanations to make predictions under conditions of uncertainty?

Children learn about novel toys (for example, a toy that glows in the dark, or is sticky, or is bouncy). They are then asked to evaluate different explanations of why each toy is sticky/bouncy/glows in the dark, and make guesses about new toys hidden in boxes, based on some cues about their properties.

4-7 year olds


StrEx

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Ages:

Can children take into account information about external constraints when explaining behavior of others?

Together with an experimenter, kids "read" an illustrated story about a school where boys and girls play different games in different classrooms. Kids are then asked to think about the reasons the students in each classroom might play each game, and to guess what game a student would play if she transferred from one classroom to another.

3 - 6 year olds


Free Will

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Ages:

What are children’s beliefs about their own free will, and do these beliefs relate to corresponding self-control (e.g. if children believe that they can choose to not eat a cookie, can they actually refrain from eating a cookie)?


To measure children’s free will beliefs, children are asked a series of questions.  Children state if they can choose to do a variety or things, or not do a variety of things that are incongruent with their own desires.
To measure self-control and executive functioning, children may be asked to refrain from doing something they want to do, or do something they don’t want to do (such as not look at the experimenter while they wrap a surprise gift, or put away toys).

4 & 5 year olds


Theory Revision

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Ages:

How much information do children need to revise their beliefs or theories? 
 

Children will be invited to play a game in which they will learn how a set of arbitrary toys work. They will then see that the toys work differently and afterwards will be asked to activate a new toy to demonstrate their understanding of how it works. 

4 & 5 year olds


Feed the Turtle


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Ages:

Our goal in this experiment is to investigate whether children can form broad generalizations from limited evidence about which kinds of causes might make a difference in producing a causal outcome. When we are faced with a causal system we're not familiar with, we may nonetheless find ourselves in a position where we need to "intervene," or take action on, that system. This experiment asks whether we can use our past experiences to make educated guesses about which parts of a causal system might "make a difference" in a new situation.

Participants meet a friendly turtle named Shelly. Shelley likes to eat cactuses that are smooth... but not spiky! Participants see a series of PowerPoint animations and learn about different combinations of factors that we can use to grow cactuses that are either spiky or smooth. Then, participants get to decide what to change about a new situation in order to grow a smooth cactus that Shelly can eat! 

3 & 4 year olds