Julia Leonard, University of Pennsylvania
Social influences on children’s persistence
Children’s persistence in the face of challenge is central to learning. But how do young children learn when and how to deploy effort? This talk explores how children use social information to effectively allocate effort. First, I demonstrate that infants can generalize the value of persistence from watching how hard an adult tries to reach a goal. Next, I show that young children not only integrate information about adults’ actions, but also about their outcomes (success or failure) and testimony, to decide how hard to try on a novel task. Children persist the longest when adults practice what they preach: saying they value effort in conjunction with demonstrating effortful success on their own task. Finally, I show correlational and causal evidence that the real-world parenting behavior of “taking over” (completing hard tasks for children) negatively impacts children’s persistence. Collectively, this work elucidates the malleable social factors that positively and negatively impact children’s persistence. I will end with a discussion of future directions, including an effort to quantify and explain within and between subject day-to-day fluctuations in persistent behavior.