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Title: How do children and adults make inferences about ownership?
Author: Stewart, Sarah
ISNI:       0000 0004 5364 8695
Awarding Body: Northumbria University
Current Institution: Northumbria University
Date of Award: 2014
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In everyday life both adults and children are faced with the problem of judging who owns an object. Past research has indicated that adults and children may base their decisions on who was seen possessing an object first (the first possessor bias) or the person with whom an initial visual association was created. The current thesis aimed to investigate this, and ascertain whether children and adults maintain their bias to choose the first possessor of an object as its owner when other competing information regarding ownership is available. Chapters 2 and 3 used between subjects factorial designs in which adults (aged 18-60) and children (aged 3-4 years) viewed a number of stories of characters possessing objects in a variety of different scenarios. After viewing each story participants were required to judge which character owned the object. Results showed that when adults and children had no information, other than who possessed an object first, they chose the first possessor as the owner of the object. However when other competing information, such as the gender or age stereotype of the object, or who had constructive possession of the object, was available both adults and children disregarded their first possessor bias and made decisions in line with this other information. Chapter 4 used a between subjects factorial design and a mixed factorial design. The aim of the experiments was to ascertain whether adults and children take the history of an object into account when deciding who owns an object. Adults (aged 18-60) and children (aged 3-4 years) were shown stories in which one character wore and object and another character held an object. Information was given to help participants infer the history of each of the objects in the stories. Following each story participants were asked to judge who owned the object. Results demonstrated that both adults and children take the history of an object into account in their ownership decisions, and privilege this information above other competing information such as visual association, but that adults do this more reliably than children. All the experiments in this thesis demonstrated that when there is no other information available both adults and children base their decisions on who was seen possessing an object first. However when other information is available both adults and children take this into account in their decisions. Adults and children may use the information in order to reconstruct the history of an object to ascertain who had contact with it in the past and therefore who may have a legitimate claim of ownership over it.
Supervisor: Defeyter, Greta; Friedman, Ori Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: C800 Psychology