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Whom to ask for help? Children’s developing understanding of other people’s action capabilities

By Markus Paulus and Chris Moore


We often rely on other people’s help to accomplish tasks and to attain goals. People, however, differ in their physical action capabilities. Some persons are therefore better able to provide help than others. We investigated 2.5-, 3.5-, and 5-year-old children’s ability to take other person’s action capabilities in a helping situation into account. To this end, they observed a protagonist who needed the help of friends to accomplish several tasks. For each task, two friends were available, but only one was physically able to provide the help. Children were asked to indicate, which partner the protagonist will ask for help. Our results showed a developmental effect with children in the older two groups performing significantly better than those in the youngest group. Additionally, we found evidence that the 5-year-olds outperformed the younger age groups in their ability to justify their choice. Our findings thus suggest that children’s ability to consider others’ physical action capabilities in helping situations develops around 3 years of age. The results are interpreted in terms of children’s ability to perceive others’ affordances. The implication of these findings for theories on the development of action understanding and joint action are discussed

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Springer-Verlag
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Provided by: PubMed Central

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