Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Reasoning about the Ability of Self and Others: A Developmental Study

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Studies of the development of children's reasoning about ability have generally focused on reasoning about filmed or described others. But only inferences about one's own ability are likely to serve a behavioral-regulation function. Accordingly, we compared children's reasoning about the relative ability of themselves and a comparison other (who applied either more or less effort than them) with their reasoning about the relative ability of two others (who differed in effort). Indexes of reasoning were responses to specific questions (e.g, ability judgments) and responses to the whole of a Piagetian-type interview. Structural analysis of responses to the whole interview revealed similar developmental levels of reasoning about two others and about the self and a comparison other. However, conditions involving the self produced more specific judgments of equal ability than did conditions involving two others. Self- conditions also produced more denial of low effort when children themselves had been induced to apply lower effort than when a comparison other applied lower effort. Ability judgments were less mature at the beginning than at the end of the interview. These and other data indicate that specific judgment methods may be more sensitive to situationally induced motivational influences than is the Piagetian method. The latter produces more stable results and may better tap abstract ability-related structures that children apply to themselves as well as to others in achievement situations.