Researchers examining 'trust' issues in children conducted a study whereby children were shown a video of a ficticious game called 'daxing'. In the video shown to the children, either a boy or a man argued over the correct way to 'dax'.
The child was then asked to play the game 'dax', and the method they chose to use was recorded. Children were also shown a puppet, who interjected and said it was his time to 'dax'.
The Puppet's role
I find the inclusion of a puppet very interesting in this study. I believe that the puppet here represented a non-threatening neutral or objective character, neither adult nor peer and therefore exerted little or no social pressure on the child.
It had no established role, except that of an object that had a social status equal to, or lower than the child and therefore, can easily be addressed and controlled by the child. Perhaps moreso than his peers, perhaps not, but I digress.
To return to the study, the puppet performed 'daxing' either in the way the boy in the film or the man in the film did it, and the children's reactions were recorded.
The researchers found that the children imitated the adult's method of 'daxing' significantly more often than they imitated the boy's method.
Children were also more likely to intervene when the puppet performed 'daxing' using the boy's method, protesting that the puppet was 'daxing' wrongly.
The results from the study suggest that children prefer to learn from adults rather than other children when it comes to rule-governed activities like learning a new game.
They also expect other people (the puppet) to learn and perform actions in the way that the adults have defined. This is demonstrated by the expectation that the puppet would also follow the adult's actions and not the boy's and consequent protests if it did not.
These findings tell us many things. Firstly, that young children will more readily accept adult's instructions and behaviour as being right, in normal circumstances and that adults' behaviour should be copied and followed or repeated, accordingly. Certainly, if the other choice is to listen to or comply with their peers or, heaven forbid, a puppet (other people).
This has wide spread implications for social learning of both good, bad and corrective guidance and behaviour in children and adults, especially for parents. The basic expectations of the children are that their parents are the leaders, good role models and positive examples to be trusted, obeyed and followed.
For more information on the study click on the link to the British Psychological Society (BPS)