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Factors Influencing Young Children's Use of Motives and Outcomes as Moral Criteria Author(s): Sharon A.
Factors Influencing Young Children's Use of Motives and Outcomes as Moral Criteria Author(s): Sharon A.

Factors Influencing Young Children's Use of Motives and Outcomes as Moral Criteria Author(s): Sharon A. Nelson Source: Child Development, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Sep., 1980), pp. 823-829 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development

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Factors Influencing Young Children's Use of

Motives

and Outcomes

as Moral Criteria

Sharon A. Nelson

Universityof Pittsburgh

NELSON,

SHARON

A.

Factors Influencing Young

4 stories

combining positive

groups.

Children'sUse of Motivesand Outcomesas

823-829. Young children'suse of motives and

story presentation (verbal only,

plus pictures motives and outcomes were

negative Recall for the critical story informationwas

that children as young as 3 years of

with the motive

and verbal

and

when this informationis

MoralCriteria.CHILD DEVELOPMENT,1980, 51,

outcomes as moral criteria was measured under 3 modes of

verbal plus pictures with the motive merely implied,

portrayedexplicitly).

presented also assessed. Results

age can and do use motive informationfor

explicit, salient, and available; (2)

children tend to recall the

story terms of the influence of the

judgments.

to the children in each of the 3

supported these hypotheses: (1)

making moral judgments

that when motive and outcome have opposite valences,

congruent. young child's comprehensionprocesses on recall and moral

so as to make them

The results are discussedin

Piaget

in

(1932)

found

developmental

judg-

re-

situations. In children

preference

a

trend

ments made by 6-10-year-old

sponse

under 9-10

years

for motives

the age

tently

work, he

tendency to

sequence

are

years, based on motive.

the

to

preferred

basis of

moral

children in

hypothetical

of

as

10

pointed

base their

he

found no clear

out

judgments

the basis for judgments. were

judgments

After

consis-

However, in the same

children's

young more on con-

that

information need

not

of

intentions.

In

imply that they

fact, Piaget

concepts at about the

that is, around

research was

conditions under

3-4-year-old

and

consideration

unaware

1932)

of 3-4

the

(1926,

age

has observed that the

motive emerge

years.

"whys,"

The

present

judgments

their

of

of intention and

same time as the first

the

undertaken to determine the

which

children would reflect

use of motives, as well as outcomes.

moral

Recent investigators

demonstrating

to

the

use

forced-choice

presented

have been successful

in ad-

young achieved by de-

Piaget

as 6

in

dition

years of

parting

used

tions have

motives and outcomes are

of

motives

outcomes in children as

age. This

has been

from Piaget's method. Whereas

situations,

single

stories

recent investiga-

which

in

systematically varied

and have used quantitative response

(e.g.,

Constanzo,

Coie,

Grumet,

1973).

actor's motive

1975).

actor's motive by using videotaped

explicitly

reversing

(e.g.,

(e.g.,

1973)

Greenspan,

the

&

or

by

(e.g.,

Feldman,

measures

& Farnhill

Some researchers have also stated the

Bearison & Isaacs

Some have increased the salience of the

situations

Chandler,

Barenboim

order in which the

motive and outcome information is presented

Klosson, Parsons, Rholes,

&

Ruble 1976; Nummedal & Bass 1976).

Studies which have examined 3- and 4-

year-olds' use of motives report conflicting

Lyons-Ruth

(Note

1)

found

no

with

good

(1978)

versu's bad

motives,

outcome information

in the Lyons-Ruth ported by Keasey

Thus,

come affects

young and use of motives

find-

ings.

that these children differentiate between actors

Keasey

reports opposite findings. However, no

to children

re-

outcome.

the type of out-

study,

evidence

but

was presented

and

the

did not

vary

the

study

it is not known whether

children's

The assumption

young

not allowed

regard

understanding as moral criteria.

underlying this research

children do

is that

and outcome as relevant criteria for moral

ments. However,

have

both motive

judg-

far

demon-

procedures employed thus

young

children to

This article is based in part on a dissertationsubmittedto the

thank Carol

Dweck, comments at several

405

[Child Development, 1980, 51, 823-829.

0009-3920/80/5103-0023$01.00)

Department of Psychology,

of Illinois, in partial fulfillmentof the requirements for the Ph.D. degree. The author

Ross Parke, Ann Brown, and Joseph Campione for their

stages of the research; gratitude is also expressed to Carl Baren-

University would like to

helpful boim and Irene

interest and cooperation

acknowledged.Requests

chology,

Frieze, who gave valuable criticism on earlier drafts of the manuscript. The

of the children and staff of participating schools is also gratefully

for reprints should be sent to: SharonA. Nelson, Department of Psy-

15260.

Inc.

Langley Hall, University of Pittsburgh,Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania

?

1980 by the Society for Research in Child Development,

824 Child Development

strate their understanding and use of these cri-

teria. Young children information

moral

member

or re-

provide

actor's mo-

also believe that the relation-

ship

have

presented. It

presentation

both motives and outcomes ex-

them avail-

allow

tive. They may

may

believe that motives for

making

logical

may,

important

fail

to

judgments, yet

accurately

between

one

interpret

the

is

Children

as

they

cues about

motive

the

and outcome

other).

motive

(i.e.,

implies

consider the

therefore,

understood it and not as it was

was

hypothesized

which makes

that a mode of

plicit

able

children as

and salient

at

the

time

young

and which keeps of

as

judgment,

3

years

strate their sensitivity to both

teria.

would

old to demon- these moral cri-

a series

be-

to accom-

To compen-

of out-

cartoon-

drawings were made to portray the actor's

In order to test the

the

assumption,

actor's

of pictures depicting

havior,

pany verbally presented stories. sate for the

and outcome were

motive,

developed

greater pictorial explicitness

to motives,

additional

comes relative

like

motive.

Study 1

Method

SUBJECTS

Subjects were 60 preschool children be-

second-grade children between the ages

7-4). Approximately level were fe-

6 and 8 years (mean =

and half

were

grade

males.

These

tween the ages of 3 and 4 years (mean = 3-4)

and 30

of

half of the children in each

males

mostly white, were from a middle-class, urban

area and participated with parental consent.

children,

MATERIALS

Stories

of motive and two levels of

factorially to make

version

story or bad motive pur-

resulting

was a ball" was consis-

children in pilot studies as

Mo-

tive descriptions always preceded outcome de-

a neutral act (see Lyons-Ruth, Note

tently regarded by

chosen

story. In

Two

levels

were four versions of a from

posely

outcome

combined

a

good

each

a boy acting

in

threw a ball toward a friend,

a

good

because "throwing

or bad outcome. This situation

1).

scriptions,

the same

come levels were as follows.

and the actor's overt behavior was

in all versions. The motive and out-

Motive

statements.--(1)

Good

motive:

This boy was playing with a ball; his friend did not have anything to play with. He wanted

to throw the ball to his friend so

play

tive: This

very

to

him on purpose.

could

Bad mo-

with a ball; he was

He wanted

throw the ball at his friend so he could hit

they

catch together with the ball. (2)

mad

boy

at

was

playing

his friend that

day.

Outcome statements.-(1)

Good outcome:

The

boy ball and was outcome: The

boy did not catch the

on the head and made him cry.

threw the ball. His friend

happy

to

play

with it.

the

Bad

threw the ball. His friend ball; the ball hit his friend

caught

(2)

Story

a ball;

example.-This

his

boy

was playing

have

catch

together

with

to

he

with the ball. He threw the ball. His friend did not catch the ball; the ball hit his friend

on the head and made him cry.

Pictures In order to alleviate

constraints

and to examine the effects of

were

pre-

sented

above. Each set contained a series of 25-cm X

23-cm drawings illustrating the motive, the be-

The two

story. differ in the manner in which

they

first set,

the motive of the actor. In the

are

havior, and the outcome in each

sets of drawings

anything

with. He wanted to throw the ball so

friend did not

play

play and his friend could

memory

motive salience,

drawings

two sets of black-and-white line

constructed to

in each

accompany

of

the

the information

four stories described

convey

positive

and

negative the actor's facial

motives

expressions.

set, positive and negative mo- to

the actor's head cartoon-like representations of

(see fig.

tives are conveyed explicitly by connecting

the goal which he intends to achieve

In the second

merely implied by

1).

RESPONSE SCALE

to be good of

goodness

by pointing to one of three smiling faces whose

diameter increased in size from 5.5 to 7.5 cm

from

"a little

so

were required to make judgments

Children who judged the actor

that

judgments

judgments could be represented

bit

good"

to

"very

good."

faces was-used to

A similar

represent

series of frowning

the

"very

bad." At the small end of each series there was

a 4.5-cm-diameter

the

majority of children in the pilot work to con-

By using this as a

vey the neutral judgment).

neutral endpoint common to both positive and negative ratings, the two scales were combined

to form a seven-point scale for all judgments

ranging from "very bad" (1)

the judgment "just okay," (a term

representing

from "a little bit bad" to

neutral face

used

by

to "very good"

;

,I

c,

?

Sharon A. Nelson

0, \\

?~-

825

FIc. 1.-Example

stories.

of drawings used to convey motive, action, and outcomein picture-motiveexplicit

presentations of

(7)

with the "just okay" judgment as a mid-

point.

PROCEDURE

Children of each

to one

of the

were randomly as- story-presentation

signed

conditions. There were 20 children

per level. Children in each

presen-

tation to each child was randomly determined.

group

per group

at the 3-year-old level

group at the heard

age

three

and

10

children

7-year-old

all four stories. Order of

Children were

on the

story

motive

interviewed individually by

of the test

the children were familiarized with

the experimenter.

session,

point two practice stories

and "very bad" endpoints

very good

good

was about a little

outcome.

explicit group miliarize them with

used to illustrate the actor's motive.

each

At the

rating

was

beginning

scale

and then given

"very good"

scale. The

to define the

of the

about a

with a

story

with a bad motive and

in the picture-motive to fa-

little boy

very

bad

practice

and outcome; the

boy

given

The children

were also

the

cartoon conventions

the experimental session the children

were told

because

they aloud. After each

whether the little boy

boy

were asked to indicate how

the little boy was by pointing

faces. In both picture-presentation

the

the appropriate points of the story as

perimenter

side in front of the child, where

available for reference while the child made

remained

by

the ex-

one at

conditions,

one of the

bad

they

good

children were asked

would have to tell them

to the stories

In

to listen very

later

story,

boy,

or

were

carefully

"just okay."

good

to

in the story was a

Then

or a bad

or how

drawings

introduced one

by

They

were

placed

they

read.

side

his judgment.

After the

judgment

was made, the draw-

and children were asked

ings were

removed

to tell the

had

heard it. If motive or outcome information was

recounting tions were asked to

story, specific ques-

information: for

omitted in

story

aloud

the

exactly

as

they

elicit the

example,

"What

happened after the

was

"Why

the

did the boy throw his ball?";

do?"; "What

boy

boy

trying

to

threw his ball?"

Results

MORAL JUDGMENT

A 2

(age:

3- and

verbal

7-year-olds)

only,

x

3 (mode

of

implicit,

tive:

per-

formed

between

subject variables. If children perceived the stories

they were designed ments for

judg-

as

and

variables,

on the judgment data. Age and story

repeated

presentation:

and

good or bad)

measures

were

picture-motive

2

(mo-

or bad)

picture-motive explicit) x

x

2

(outcome:

good

analysis

of variance was

subject

within

perceived,

their

presentation

motive and outcome were

to be

motives and outcomes should

positive have been more

for negative motives and outcomes. Indeed,

mean

ditions

overall mean

the good-motive

in the bad-motive conditions. The main effect

for motive was highly significant,

217.13,

the

for the motive and outcome con-

positive than their judgments

ratings

were

in

the

expected

direction. The

rating

of the main character in

conditions was 5.35, and 2.27

accounting

in

F(1,84)

=

for over one-

the data (esti-

p

third of

mated W2 = .362).

< .0001,

the total variance

The

overall mean ratings

2.92,

< .001. The

effect for outcome accounted for con-

for good and bad outcomes were 4.70 and

respectively,

main

siderably less variance (estimated (2

F (1,84)

= 116.98,

p

=

.120).

A significant motive

was

found,

outcome interac-

F(1,84)

mo-

motive,

a negative

a diminished influence on

x

tion

Whenever

tive-outcome the other cue

= 4.83,

p<.03.

there was a negative cue in the

pair, especially

had

826 Child Development

TABLE 1

MEAN RATINGOF ACTOR'SGOODNESS/BADNESS IN STUDY1 AS A FUNCTION

OFSUBJECTS'AGE, LEVELOF MOTIVE, ANDLEVELOFOUTCOME

3-Year-Olds

7-Year-Olds

(N= 60)

(N= 30)

 

Good

Bad

Good

Bad

Motive

Motive

Motive

Motive

Goodoutcome

6.55

2.27

6.20

3.46

Badoutcome

4.17

1.60

4.47

1.56

outcome

the judgment. An age x

interaction,

analyzed

expected motive and outcome than the

dren were

younger Indeed, the motive x outcome interaction was

= 5.52,

1

p

was

the older chil-

greater use of both children.

motive

p <

x

F(1,84)

= 3.54,

.051,

for age trends because

to show

for the

not

3-year-olds,

for

the

significant

< .03,

F (1,59)

7-year-olds,

but

F <

(see table 1).

Of interest for whether the

present purposes was the

af-

children's use of motive and outcome

making moral judgments of the to

significantly

infor-

outcome interaction,

question

fected

information in

mode

of

presentation

main character.

the

with the mode of mation

F[2,84] = 4.60,

analysis

dure

When

motive

pictured, good and bad outcomes had a greater

effect

proce-

Contrary

expectations, only

story

more

detailed

Scheffe's

influence of outcome varied

presentation

X

A

using

(presentation

p <

.01).

was conducted

of

for post hoc comparisons among means.

the

information was

explicitly

on judgments

than when it was

implicitly

pictured at all, p < .01.

pictured or not

The

increased

effectiveness

of

outcome

information across story presentation modes is

due to the increased use of this information

presentation

when the motive is bad (mode of

x

motive

X

outcome

interaction, F[2,84] =

That is, whereas children show

3.06, p <

substantial use of outcome information in the

presen-

they

of information about outcomes when

< .01.

seen in

.05).

good-motive

tation,

show use

the motive is bad, F(2,84) = 9.67, The form of this interaction can be

figure 2.

stories under all modes of in the

picture presentations

do

p

only

RECALL

To obtain an estimate of

the

accuracy

in cod-

of children's recall of motive

reliability

ing

and outcome

independently one-third of the

mately

ment

observer

approxi-

sample. Rater agree-

was 97%. Recall frequencies were com-

information, a second

coded

responses

for

pared with chance levels:

call frequencies for

only from binomial chance.

of

recalling motive and outcome information were

in

(story

repeated measures

analysis of variance. As

as a

dren made more errors in recalling motives and

7-year-old

12.43, p

< .001. Analyses of variance performed sepa-

rately on

indicated that, while there was no effect of

on outcome recall errors, re-

significantly affected,

fewer

expected, motive valences in than in the verbal-

recalling the picture presentations

only

the motive re-

3-year-olds in the verbal-

not depart significantly

2

the valence

x

3

(outcome)

analyzed

2

presentation)

X

expected, age emerged

chil-

main effect.

Three-year-old

than

F(1,84)

=

errors and

outcome

errors

was

p <

.006. As

conditions

did

Errors made in

a

2

(age)

x

(motive)

significant

outcomes (mean = 0.408) children (mean = 0.158),

motive

story presentation

call

of

motives

F (2,84) = 5.38,

errors occurred in

only presentation.

It was hypothesized that the younger chil- assume a

might

necessary correspondence

that,

incongruent, they

would

tend

outcomes so as to make

dren

to exist between motive and outcome and

when presented with stories in which this in-

formation was

to distort motives and

them congruent. Because of discrepancies be-

tween the variances in some of the cells, as-

sumptions appropriate to parametric analyses

could not be made;

therefore, nonparametric

analyses were undertaken. Separate series of

signed-ranks on the recall

data from each age group. Comparison of mo-

tive and outcome errors

that the 3-year-olds motive

va-

recalling

lences

than when it was con-

-60). The congruency or incon-

of valence information had no effect

gruency on the pattern of recall errors made by 7-year- olds.

gruent (Z =

conflicting

Wilcoxin

matched

1956)

pairs

tests

(Siegel

were performed

made

valences

indicated, as expected,

relatively

than

more errors

outcome

when

1.72,

this information was

p

= .05)

(Z

=

Sharon A. Nelson

827

PICTURE-MOTIVE EXPLICIT

PICTURE-MOTIVEIMPUCIT

VERBALONLY

x

0

(

)

U--

0

LL

0

Z

z

GOOD

7

6

5

GOOD MOTIVE

BAD MOTIVE

I-- 4

3

z

Z

-IJ 2

0

13:

CI.

BAD

BAD

OUTCOME

GOOD

BAD

OUTCOME

GOOD

FIG. 2.-Mean

rating

of actor's goodness/badness in study 1 according to level of motive and outcome

in each storypresentation.

Discussion

The olds in the

tive rather than effect on their

amination of judgment

subjects. Inspection

tinct

dominant

ple,

there was at least one

negative cue, of its source. The second

28.33% of the

come and to rate

valence of the

ing

ratings that depended equally

motive

ied only with the valence

unexpected finding that, for 3-year-

verbal-only presentation group, mo-

potent a closer ex-

outcome

had

the more

judgment prompted

data

from individual

of

of

these data suggests dis- The

pre-

this sam-

judgment responses.

shown

by

40%of

actor negatively whenever

regardless

by

ignore the out- to the

according motives. The remain-

pattern,

to

shown

actor

following

patterns:

on the valence of

that var-

of

patterns

pattern, was to rate the

sample, was

the

presented

the

children showed

and outcome

(1.67%); ratings

the

outcome

whenever at least one

(6.67%); positive

ratings

positive cue was presented (10%); and random responses (13.33%).

preschool-

A very large percentage of the

to

give more emphasis

negative

valence,

of

source

reported

of bad

1977;

before the

McKechnie

concept

1971;

Hill

of

ers seem

especially than to its been

cept

&

Rhine, Hill, & Wandruff 1967).

to the

the cue rather

valence,

(motive or outcome). It has that children develop the con-

(Hill

1932;

formulating

good

Piaget

In

a moral judgment, to cues

children

of bad (Hill

may

cue

first

countered

uation

judgment.

children may be more alert

any define good as the absence

kind. Since

regarding

commonly

badness of

1977),

& Hill

only is encountered. Thus it cue-motive

positive judgments

no

negative be that the

tend to be made

negative

by

the

when

may

or

outcome--en-

in the

story

sit-

will be sufficient to establish a negative

preschooler

Study

2

In Study

bad motive

1, when the

it

3-year-olds

in the

the

reflected

outcome which motive may have

judgment simply

encoun-

really

the

the order of

verbal-only

bad-motive

the

followed.

been

because

tered?

cerned

with

source of the

presentation

stories

gard

countered.

for

Therefore, a second the

given

investigate

condition rated

stories, their

Is

actors in the

judgments

cue

but not the

that

possible utilized as a basis for

it was always the first If

preschoolers

negative

cue,

then

are

valence

should lead to

more con-

than with

reversing

of motive and outcome within the

which disre-

outcomes are en-

This is expected to be so, especially

stories.

was undertaken to

that the

study 1

emphasis

judgments

of

motives whenever bad

the

to

verbal

motive

presentations

study

possibility

by

the

the

3-year-olds in

828 Child Development

MEAN

RATING

OF ACTOR'S

TO PRESENTATION

PRESENTATION

Verbal only Picture-motive implicit

Picture-motive explicit.

TABLE 2

GOODNESS/BADNESS

MODE,

OUTCOME,

IN STUDY 2 ACCORDING AND MOTIVE

GOOD OUTCOME

Good

Motive

6.11

7.00

7.00

Bad

Motive

3.56

2.11

3.56

BAD

Good

Motive

OUTCOME

Bad

Motive

1.78

1.11

1.11

2.67

2.33

4.22

reflects a

valence of

of information about the

presen-

tation of the source of the cues within the

stories.

confounding the cues with the order of

SUBJECTS

AND

PROCEDURE

Twenty-seven

age = 3-8)

preschool

girls

in

randomly as-

three presentation groups.

boys

and

(mean

participated as subjects

Children were

procedure

1.

of the

motive.

the second

signed

The materials and the

tical with those of study

presentation modes, description

In

study.

of the

to one

were iden-

all stories and

of the outcome

preceded description

RESULTS AND DisCUSSION

Judgments

in

2

analysis of vari-

ance.

study 1,

good (mean = 4.89)

2.20); F(1,24) = 102.06, p < .001 (estimated

02 = .250). Likewise, good

more positively

tives

.001 (estimated (2 = .251).

cant motive X outcome interaction

F(1,24) = 6.88,

indicating that,

whenever either motive or outcome is

was found,

Again, a signifi-

made by

judgments

a 3 (presentation mode)

Moral

judgment

repeated

2

ratings

x

measures

were

analyzed

x

2 (outcome)

(motive)

Table

presents the mean

in

2.

study

rated

As in

children

outcomes

more than bad outcomes

were

(mean =

positively

(mean =

motives were rated

4.89)

than bad mo- =

144.50, p <

(mean = 2.20);

p

F'(1,24)

< .02,

The

negative, the other cue in the pair has diminished influ-

ence on the

judgment. outcome interaction found in

presentation

study 1

did

x

not

a

predicted, interaction .02. As hy-

verbal-pre-

mo-

by those made in the picture conditions

occur in these data. Rather, as

significant presentation

was found,

F

(2,24)

x

motive

p

<

= 4.73,

judgments

made in the

(see table 2).

pothesized,

sentation condition were less influenced

tive than

Recall

recalling presented motives and outcomes were analyzed

Errors made

in

the valence

of

in a

x

2

3 (mode of presentation)

x

(motive)

repeated

analysis

revealed

an

2 (outcome)

only

one

measures analysis of

sig-

outcome X motive interac-

made

good-

outcomes were bad (mean

good in bad-motive stories, there

outcomes

variance. The

nificant effect:

tion, F (2,24) more errors

motive stories when

= 6.68, p < .03. Children information in

recalling story

than

when

outcomes

were

errors made

0.130)

for

=-0.167)

(mean = 0.074);

were

more

good than for bad outcomes (mean

(mean

=

= 0.055).

performed

on

finding.

Recall errors were compared for stories with

congruent

pairings.

pairings

errors vs.

Errors made in

sisted primarily

presented so as to the

ent

made for incongru-

motive-outcome

clarify

The results of Wilcoxin tests

the recall data

versus

the above

incongruent

More errors were

than for

14 errors),

congruent pairings

Z

=

-2.57,

p

=

(32

.005.

the incongruent

distorting to make it

of

the

congruent

stories con-

positive

cue

in valence

accompanying negative cue.

General Discussion

The results from the

presented

significantly

of motives and

judgments.

diminished

likely

to be

present studies show

story

affects

information

young chil-

outcomes in

on

preschoolers'

stories are

both

that the modality in which is

dren's use

evaluative

sented verbally,

cues has

moral judgments. In contrast, when

presented accompanied

by

and bad motives and by good and bad

comes.

stories are

making

pre-

information following negative

When

impact

by pictures, judgments

good

out-

are more

influenced

The

3-year-old

that

children in these studies

consistently relied on one

this cue was

negative cue en- picture presenta- can be described

as

three cues: negative va-

made

cue. In

most

countered

tions, children's judgments

reflecting any one

judgments

the

likely

verbal presentations,

to

be

the first

in the stories. In

of

Sharon A. Nelson

829

is con-

lence, motive, or outcome. This sistent with

younger

either on motive or on outcome

same child might judge sometimes by outcome

viewing

the

relying

observation that

finding

Piaget's

(1932)

made

children

judgments

and

that

and sometimes such a child's

present

consistent application of a judgmental strategy

that it may reflect

the

motive. Rather than

by

behavior

as

inconsistent,

of

research suggests

the child's

influenced

and "bad."

by

concepts

"good"

understanding

about

ships.

of

the beliefs children have

purposeful actions and social relation-

Reference

Note

1. Lyons-Ruth, K. Factors affecting the value

judgments of preschool children. Paper pre-

sented at the biennial meeting of the Society

for Researchin Child Development, New Or- leans, March1977.

study,

where outcome

the effect of motive on moral

not less than that of outcomes.

suggests that while cue valence does influence the

pre-

motive is influential

source of relevant infor-

finding that many children's judg-

ments reflected the use of motive alone

ports this notion.

tended to

recall stories

outcome information so as to

is in line with the observations of

congruent

Berndt & Berndt children assume

some

motives

example,

encode the

actor's motive

information is made

fer that the actor's motive

ques-

tioned about

the actor whose

gruent

his

sought the actor's motive