The role of testimony in children’s moral decision making: Evidence from China and United States.

Pearl Han Li, Paul L. Harris, Melissa A. Koenig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


What does it take know a moral truth or principle? Although testimony is an undisputed source of empirical knowledge of contingent facts, it is less clear whether it is possible to acquire “second-hand moral knowledge” (Jones, 1999; Wolff, 1998). In the present studies, 3- to 5-year-old Chinese (N = 124) and U.S. American (N = 90) children were asked to judge whether novel, distress-inducing actions were morally permissible, both independently and after either 1 or 3 adult informants had made counterintuitive judgments. Although participants made appropriate moral judgments independently, children from both countries were affected by the counterintuitive testimony provided by the adult informant(s). Moreover, Chinese children were especially receptive to such counterintuitive claims. These findings demonstrate that intuitive moral judgments based on perceived harm are common across 2 cultural groups, but adult testimony can potentially shift those judgments. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2603-2615
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Psychological Association


  • conformity
  • consensus
  • culture
  • moral judgment
  • trust in testimony


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