The development of cynicism

Psychol Sci. 2005 May;16(5):385-90. doi: 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01545.x.

Abstract

Two experiments explored the development of cynicism by examining how children evaluate other people who make claims consistent or inconsistent with their self-interests. In Experiment 1, kindergartners, second graders, and fourth graders heard stories with ambiguous conclusions in which characters made statements that were aligned either with or against self-interest. Older children took into account the self-interests of characters in determining how much to believe them: They discounted statements aligned with self-interest, whereas they accepted statements going against self-interest. Experiment 2 examined children's endorsement of three different explanations for potentially self-interested statements: lies, biases, and mistakes. Like adults, sixth graders endorsed lies and bias as plausible explanations for wrong statements aligned with self-interest; younger children did not endorse bias. Implications for the development of cynicism and children's understanding of bias are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Development*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Videotape Recording