Communicative eye contact signals a commitment to cooperate for young children
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Making commitments to cooperate facilitates cooperation. There is a long-standing theoretical debate about how promissory obligations come into existence, and whether linguistic acts (such as saying “I promise”) are a necessary part of the process. To inform this debate we experimentally investigated whether even minimal, nonverbal behavior can be taken as a commitment to cooperate, as long as it is communicative. Five- to 7-year-old children played a Stag Hunt coordination game in which they needed to decide whether to cooperate or play individually. During the decision-making phase, children’s partner made either ostensive, communicative eye contact or looked non-communicatively at them. In Study 1 we found that communicative looks produced an expectation of collaboration in children. In Study 2 we found that children in the communicative look condition normatively protested when their partner did not cooperate, thus showing an understanding of the communicative looks as a commitment to cooperate. This is the first experimental evidence, in adults or children, that in the right context, communicative, but not non-communicative, looks can signal a commitment.
Siposova , B , Tomasello , M & Carpenter , M 2018 , ' Communicative eye contact signals a commitment to cooperate for young children ' Cognition , vol. 179 , pp. 192-201 . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2018.06.010
© 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created accepted version manuscript following peer review and as such may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2018.06.010
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