The role of perspective taking in affective decision making was studied in children at two ages (3 and 4 years) using a delay-of-gratification paradigm in which children chose between an immediate reward of lower value and a delayed reward of higher value. Half the children chose for themselves (self condition), and half chose for the experimenter (other condition). Three-year-olds chose delayed rewards in the other condition but made impulsive choices in the self condition. Compared with 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds performed better in the self condition and worse in the other condition. Results suggest that 3-year-olds took either a subjective, first-person perspective (for self) or an objective, third-person perspective (for other). Four-year-olds integrated these perspectives, considering a third-person perspective in the self condition and the experimenter's subjective perspective in the other condition (i.e., her desire for immediate gratification). This integration allowed reason to be tempered by emotion, and vice versa.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. We thank Wil Cunningham, Charles Helwig, and Li Qu for helpful comments, and the Ontario Science Centre for their cooperation.
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