Nelson Study (Morals in Children)

In what context was this experiment done?
This study is an extension of Piaget’s 1932 experiment, pertaining to the moral development of children. Piaget found that children made judgments based on motive, this study also includes analysis of behaviors and outcomes.

What was the aim of the study?
To determine the level to which good and bad motives and outcomes factor into a child’s judgement of whether a person is good or bad.

Wheat was the method of study 1?
Two out comes and two motives were combined to make 4 possible stories. Children were presented with all stories, and were given either explicit or implicit visual aids to accompany the story. Later the children were asked to recite the story and rate the actors morality on a seven point scale.

Who participated in study 1?
sixty preschool children (three to four years) and about 30 grade two children (six to eight years). about half were female and half were male, almost all were middle class and white.

What was the procedure of of study 1?
Children were randomly assigned to one of 3 story presentation groups. Each group heard all four stories in a random order. Afterwards, each child was interviewed individually and asked to rate the “goodness” of the boy in the story on a seven point scale. Each child was also asked to recite the story to investigate memory in cases where the motive and outcome were incongruent.

Explain the results of study one.
– Subjects rated positive motives and outcomes more positively than negative motives/outcomes
– Motives were weighted more than outcomes
– When ever there was a negative cue, the significance of other cues diminished
– Older children used both cues more consistently
– Children only used outcome information in negative stories when the motive was bad

Explain the reason study 2 was conducted.
Study two was used to examine if the order the story was presented in during study one (always motive, then outcome) had any effect. Children placed greater influence on motive in study one. In study two some story orders were flipped to see if greater weight would be placed on outcome.

Explain the design of study 2.
The design of study two is identical to that of study one. Except that the order of the stories were flipped (outcome was presented before motive).

Who participated in study 2?
27 preschool children with mixed gender.

Explain the results of study 2.
– Good outcomes and motives were still rated more positively
– If either piece of the cue pair was negative the other piece has a diminished influence
– presentation times outcome was insignificant while presentation times motive was significant
– Verbal presentations were less influenced by motive than in picture stories
– Children had a difficult time recalling the story when the motive outcome pair was incongruent. They would often alter the story, stating that the boy “changed his mind.”

What were the strengths of this study?
– Very controlled
– Large sample size
– large amount of statistical and quantitative data

What were the weaknesses of this study?
– Little to no ecological validity
– Little variation in the behavior in the stories (boy always threw a ball)