Humans in every culture judge some actions and people as positive, others as negative. It is clearly beneficial to distinguish supportive and friendly individuals from harmful and malicious ones, and evolutionary biologists, comparative psychologists, and cultural anthropologists have argued that an ability to evaluate others is essential for navigating the social world. Studies proposed here will explore the developmental origins of social evaluation;specifically, how infants &toddlers (a) understand and predict how other individuals evaluate social actions and the agents who perform them;and (b) form their own positive and negative attitudes towards agents based on the actions that they engage in. Series 1 employs looking-time measures to investigate infants'assessment and understanding of several types of positive and negative interactions, including those involving reciprocation and retaliation. Series 2 examines infants' positive and negative evaluations of individuals based on their social actions, using infants' reaching behaviors as an indication of their assessments. Series 3 explores the extent to which young children's social evaluations are explicitly available, using verbal judgments and choices of whom to reward or punish;and explores how children's social evaluation of an individual influences their willingness to learn from that individual. The study of the development of social evaluation connects to disciplines such as social psychology, cultural anthropology, behavioral economics, and evolutionary theory. Results from these experiments will shed light both on central questions in developmental psychology, and on broader questions about the role of innate knowledge and cultural learning in the genesis of human social interaction.

Public Health Relevance

By learning more about the nature and development of social evaluation, we will be in a better position ultimately to understand atypical development of these processes in, for example, individuals with autism and Asperger's syndrome, and disorders of psychopathy. A successful theory of the etiology of these serious disorders requires research into the nature, sequence, and mechanisms underlying typical development. More generally, such research is a critical step in developing a richer understanding, as a society, of the psychological bases underlying affective states such as empathy, anger, and guilt, as well as moral notions of obligation, fairness, &just punishment;as such, this research has implications for broader social and educational issues.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
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Gilotty, Lisa
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Yale University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
New Haven
United States
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Wynn, Karen; Bloom, Paul; Jordan, Ashley et al. (2018) Not Noble Savages after all: Limits to early altruism. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 27:3-8
Tasimi, Arber; Wynn, Karen (2016) Costly rejection of wrongdoers by infants and children. Cognition 151:76-79
Wynn, Karen (2016) Origins of Value Conflict: Babies Do Not Agree to Disagree. Trends Cogn Sci 20:3-5
Wertz, Annie E; Wynn, Karen (2014) Thyme to touch: infants possess strategies that protect them from dangers posed by plants. Cognition 130:44-9
Sheskin, Mark; Bloom, Paul; Wynn, Karen (2014) Anti-equality: social comparison in young children. Cognition 130:152-6
Wertz, Annie E; Wynn, Karen (2014) Selective social learning of plant edibility in 6- and 18-month-old infants. Psychol Sci 25:874-82
Hamlin, J Kiley; Mahajan, Neha; Liberman, Zoe et al. (2013) Not like me = bad: infants prefer those who harm dissimilar others. Psychol Sci 24:589-94
Mahajan, Neha; Wynn, Karen (2012) Origins of ""us"" versus ""them"": prelinguistic infants prefer similar others. Cognition 124:227-33
Hamlin, J Kiley; Wynn, Karen; Bloom, Paul et al. (2011) How infants and toddlers react to antisocial others. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108:19931-6
Hamlin, J Kiley; Wynn, Karen (2011) Young infants prefer prosocial to antisocial others. Cogn Dev 26:30-39

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