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Cognition. 2013 Apr;127(1):38-45. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2012.11.001. Epub 2013 Jan 12.

Ideas versus labor: what do children value in artistic creation?

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Department of Psychology, Yale University, USA.


As scientists, we primarily award authorship, as well as legal patents, to those who generate ideas, often without formally crediting others who executed the actual experiments. However, little is known about how and when people come to value ideas. Here, we investigate whether young children also value ideas over labor. In Study 1, we found that 4 and 6 year olds preferred pictures containing their ideas to those containing their labor. In Study 2 we rule out an alternative explanation-that children simply favor pictures containing their idiosyncratic preferences-by discovering that 6 year olds, but not 4 year olds chose a picture they mistakenly believed contained their idea, over a picture that contained their idiosyncratic preferences. Consistent with these results, using a third-party design in Study 3, we found that 6 year olds, but not 4 year olds favored a person who only contributed an idea over another who only contributed labor in awarding ownership. Across three studies, these results suggest that by 6 years old, children value ideas over labor.

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