Children's thinking about traits: implications for judgments of the self and others

Child Dev. 1998 Apr;69(2):391-403.


The relation between the way in which children interpret human behavior and their beliefs about the stability of human traits is investigated. In interviews with 202 7- and 8-year-olds across 2 studies, the belief that traits are stable predicted a greater tendency to make trait judgments, and an increased focus on outcomes and behaviors through which traits can be judged. In the academic domain, a belief in trait stability was associated with an emphasis on the evaluative meanings of performance outcomes, as opposed to mediating processes such as effort. In the sociomoral domain, the same belief was associated with an emphasis on the evaluative meanings of behaviors (e.g., whether the person is good or bad), as opposed to factors that mediate behavior, such as intention. Results suggest that beliefs about the stability of traits may serve an important role in thinking about and functioning within the academic and sociomoral domains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Child
  • Concept Formation
  • Female
  • Helplessness, Learned
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Personality*
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Perception*
  • Thinking*