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But You Promised: Children’s Judgments of Broken Promises

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DOI: 10.4236/psych.2013.412152    4,207 Downloads   5,566 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

Current conceptions regarding children’s understanding of promises (and promise breaking) rely upon absolute distinction: namely, a promise versus a non-promise. The current study expands the understanding of children’s judgments of broken promises to include more nuanced, refined descriptions. Utilizing a four-point rating scale—ranging from “OK” to “very bad”—forty children aged 6 to 10 judged story cards depicting characters breaking commitments not to engage in specific behaviors across three different domains (moral, social-conventional, and personal). Analyses indicated that children judge broken promises in the moral domain more severely than those in the social-conventional domain and broken promises in the social-conventional domain more severely than those in the personal domain. Therefore, children appear to judge broken commitments on a sliding scale in much the same way they judge actions from the moral, social-conventional and personal domains. Results from the current study also suggest an inverse pattern of judgment with regards to broken commitments. Specifically, it appears that the more severely an initial action is judged, the less severely its concurrent commitment condition is judged; and vice versa. These findings help refine our understanding of childhood interpretations of broken promises and engender several unique ideas for future research in this field.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Hussar, K. & Horvath, J. (2013). But You Promised: Children’s Judgments of Broken Promises. Psychology, 4, 1046-1050. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.412152.

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