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Principles guiding young children's reasoning about ownership

Dr. Ori Friedman

Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

University of Waterloo, Department of Psychology

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Ownership of property influences people's  behavior in relation to objects, and their social judgments and behavior. Ownership is also invisible and abstract - the physical properties of an object do not determine whether the object is owned, by whom it is owned, nor which rights or privileges are conferred to the owner. If ownership does not depend on the physical properties of things, from where does it arise? Traditionally two accounts have been offered: ownership could be an arbitrary product of culture and law; or it could have a natural basis. This debate can be informed by developmental psychology - if ownership is a product of culture, then young children should have little appreciation of ownership, or at best a piecemeal conception of it. In this talk, I report findings favoring the opposite conclusion that ownership may have a natural basis. Reviewing three lines of developmental research, I suggest that young children's reasoning about ownership is guided by broad abstract principles, such as the Lockean principle that objects become owned through labor and investment.

Dr. Ori Friedman