Children's judgments of psychological harm in normal and noncanonical situations

Charles C. Helwig, Philip David Zelazo, Mary Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


This study investigated children's (3-, 5-, and 7-year-olds) and adults' (total N = 92) integrator, of information about intentions, acts, and outcomes in moral judgments of psychological harm. Behavioral and emotional predictions and judgments of act acceptability and punishment were made under normal and noncanonical causal conditions. Participants at all ages judged it wrong to inflict negative psychological reactions of fear or embarassment on unwilling participants, even when these reactions were idiosyncratic or noncanonical. When assigning punishment, younger children tended to use an outcome rule, whereas older participants were more likely to use an intention rule or a conjunction rule (if outcome is negative and intention is negative, then punish). The results show that children as young as 3 years are able to take into account other people's idiosyncratic perspectives when making moral judgments of psychological harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-81
Number of pages16
JournalChild development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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