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Children's Thinking About Traits

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Ashley Martin

on 20 April 2015

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Transcript of Children's Thinking About Traits

Study One
The Study
Results of Study One
Study Two
The Study:
Interview Questions:
Question 1:

Question 2:

Question 3:
The interview questions focused on two domains: Academic and Sociomoral Judgements. The academic question would be along the lines of question one, and the sociomoral question would be similar to question two. There would be a third type of question, which was asked to ensure that students differentiated between the two domains.
All questions were designed to match gender to maximize identification with story character
86 participants (second graders), 46 girls and 40 boys; upper-middle class
Took the form of one-on-one interviews.


Important Vocabulary:
Entity Trait Beliefs: belief that traits are essentially fixed and cannot be developed

Incremental Trait Beliefs: belief that traits can be changed. People can change how smart they are, more resilient

Sociomoral stability endorsers: Believe
traits are stable and can't change (entity)

Sociomoral stability rejector:rejects the
idea of one’s goodness or badness
staying the same/ sociomoral stability
Results of Study One
Purpose: To validate the findings from study one
"Imagine a new girl is in your class. You look over at her school work and see that she got lots and lots wrong and has a low grade on her paper. Does this mean that she is bad?”
Study One
26 children were classified as
60 children were classified as

The phrasing of the questions was important in the interviews. Based off a previous pilot study, they found that questions asked about change gave a response of yes more often then questions asked about stability.

For example:
Ben hit his friend. Can he become a good boy?
Ben hit his friend. Will he stay a bad boy?
How were questions asked?
55% of boys
fell into the sociomoral stability endorser category compared to only
8.7% of girls

Study Two
116 participants (second graders), 58 boys and 58 girls; upper-middle class. Conducted using one-on-one interviews.
All participants
received two versions of the questions; one with a male character and one with a female character. Children were asked to predict whether the character would continue to behave similarly in the future.

For example: Imagine a new girl is in your class. She steals your things, calls you mean names and trips you at recess. Do you think this new girl will always act this way?

None of these questions were assessing beliefs about sociomoral stability were asked consecutively. These questions were ordered in this way so that participants would be encouraged to consider each question individually and not be concerned with making consistent responses to questions that sounded familiar
” (pg 396)

55 children (47.4 %) were classified as sociomoral stability endorsers and 61 (52.6%) were classified as sociomoral stability rejecters.
This was much more even than the first study.

Gender difference was not discussed, perhaps because participants were split equally and questions addressed both genders for all children.

Results of Study Two
Children's Thinking About Traits
The goal of this research was to examine beliefs about sociomoral stability in relation to patterns of thinking about academic and sociomoral events among early elementary school students.
Think of kids in your class who get a lot right on their schoolwork. Why do you think they get a lot right?"
Imagine a new girl at school makes up a lie to try to get other kids to like her. Does this mean that she is a bad kid?
Imagine a girl who gets mixed up on her schoolwork a lot. Does this mean that she is not a good girl?”
What did they find?
Why? Researchers were unsure as to why this happened. This was surprising because it hadn’t been found in other studies done on the same topic.

Researchers speculated that it was because “children’s spontaneous comments suggest that in this particular sample, boys who misbehaved were more often labeled as “bullies,” whereas girls’ misbehavior were more often attributed to family problems, such as parental divorce of job loss”
Why do you think this happened?

Participants would change their answers based on the way the questions were phrased,
but study accounted for this bias by using phrasing that favors both answers
Not a very diverse study→ all upper middle class participants and we are unsure of whether
or not it took place in the same school setting
One time study (not repeated over a long period of time)
One-on-One interviews do not allow kids to actually be in the experience. Children may answer how they think they should supposed to their true feelings

The study raised the possibility that students may view the two separate domains as correlated and may evaluate academic outcomes along the same good or bad scale. Children may be using good and bad to define intelligence.

Is this true? Is this what they found in the study?
In study one, 95% of participants agreed that a child who does mean things would not necessarily have difficulty with schoolwork. The other 5% showed understanding of domain distinctions.
It is important to note that endorsers are not more pessimistic, but instead perceive a close relationship between a person's actions and what kind of person they are. Endorsers are more likely to focus on ability in relation to academic outcomes: instead of keep trying on an activity, may believe they simply can't do it.
Implications for Teaching
The way you praise a child can affect the way they view themselves.
You should give specific praise instead of general “You are so smart” or "You are a good kid"

“Imagine a girl who gets mixed up on her schoolwork a lot. Does this mean that she is not a good girl?”

”Imagine a new girl is in your class. She steals your things, calls you mean names and trips you at recess. When children do mean things like this does that mean they will get a lot wrong on their schoolwork?”
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