Marshall, J., Mermin-Bunnell, K, & Bloom, P.
Volume 201, August 2020, 104215
In some contexts, punishment is seen as an obligation limited to authority figures. In others, it is also a responsibility of ordinary citizens. In two studies with 4- to 7-year-olds (n = 232) and adults (n = 76), we examined developing judgments about whether certain individuals, either authority figures or peers, are obligated to intervene (Study 1) or to punish (Study 2) after witnessing an antisocial action. In both studies, children and adults judged authority figures as obligated to act, but only younger children judged ordinary individuals as also obligated to do so. Taken together, the present findings suggest that younger children, at least in the United States, start off viewing norm enforcement as a universal responsibility, entrusting even ordinary citizens with a duty to intervene in response to antisocial individuals. Older children and adults, though, see obligations as role-dependent—only authority figures are obligated to intervene.
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