Utilization of two nonverbal cues by children giving moral judgement responses



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The present investigation was conducted to test the influence of two nonverbal cues as transmitters of experimenter bias and an experimental arrangement through which the amount of the bias may be varieti. Specifically, it was expected that children would utilize the nonverbal cues (head nods and eye glances) as determinants of what the examiner believed to be the "right" answer and respond accordingly. The amount of bias was hypothesized to be a function of the nonverbal cuing condition and the response orientation of the child. Children, ranging in age from six years, seven months to ten years, three months, were asked to respond to stories that contrasted good intentions and large negative consequences (an objective moral judgment response orientation) with bad intentions and small negative consequences (a subjective moral judgment response orientation). These stories were modified from items based on the theories of Jean Piaget. The data on thirty-six boys and thirty-six girls were used for comparison and evaluation. Each subject responded in an assessment phase to items devoid of any nonverbal cue. This score was used to determine his operant moral judgment response orientation. In the same testing session, the subject received one of three treatment conditions: the experimenter would look up and nod when the name used in an objective story was used; or the experimenter would look up and nod when the name in a subjective story was used; or the experimenter would look up and nod when a name from either of the stories would be used. Both phases of the experiment were presented on video-tape so all of the nonverbal cues would be the same. The main findings were as follows: 1. Children holding an objective moral judgment response orientation give significantly different scores when presented with nonverbal cues that emphasize a subjective response as opposed to the same nonverbal cues that emphasize an objective response. 2. Children, regardless of their operant moral judgment response orientation, tend to give the most number of subjective responses when presented with subjective bias cues, the second largest amount of subjective responses when presented with a combination of both subjective and objective bias cues, and the least amount of subjective responses when presented with objective bias cues. 3. The sex of the subject does not play a significant role in determining the response of the child, regardless of the operant moral judgment response orientation or the cuing condition. It was concluded that head nods and eye glances can alter the responses of young children. Thus it behooves educators and psychologists to monitor their nonverbal behavior when administering a test where answers are derived from parts of the questions.