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Percept Mot Skills. 2001 Feb;92(1):171-6.

At what age do children learn to discriminate between act and actor?

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Abo Akademi University Vasa, Finland.


Children's ability to make moral judgements about an act on the basis of aspects of the act rather than on liking and preconceived ideas about the actor was investigated. 85 children of 4 age groups (preschool, Grades 1, 2, and 3, age range 5-9 years) participated. Act/Actor discrimination was investigated with a test consisting of 8 cartoons. In 4, a rabbit was behaving aggressively against a wolf; the other 4 portrayed identical acts with the wolf as aggressor and the rabbit as victim. Participants made moral evaluations of each cartoon. IQ was measured with Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices, and the general level of moral development was measured in accord with Piaget's (1932) criteria. Age, IQ, and general moral development correlated with discriminative ability for Act and Actor. In Piagetian terms, children at the heteronomous level were not capable of such discrimination, while children at the autonomous level (above 7 years of age) in general were.

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