British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 37 Issue 2 (June 2019), Pages i-iv, 149-307

The role of audience familiarity and activity outcome in children's understanding of disclaimers (pages 230-246)

Disclaimers are used prior to expected poor performance to protect the individual from being evaluated negatively by the audience (Lee et al., 1999, Personality and Individual Differences, 26, 701). In this study, 8‐, 11‐, and 14‐year‐olds (N = 147) heard stories of a protagonist telling a familiar or unfamiliar peer that they did not think that they would perform well today, followed by either no disclaimer or a disclaimer and the activity outcome. Children judged how the audience would rate the protagonist's typical performance and character, and judged their response motivation. Children judged that familiar audiences would be more positive about typical performance and character than unfamiliar audiences; this varied depending on disclaimer use and participant sex. Further, children's typical performance judgements were more positive when the outcome was negative if a disclaimer was offered, with older children recognizing the self‐presentational motivation in these conditions. Results are explored in relation to children's understanding of disclaimers. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? By 10 years, children understand the mitigating function of a disclaimer. Audience characteristics (age and familiarity) affect children's self‐presentation judgements. Children have difficulty understanding why someone would disclose negative information of the self. What the present study adds From 11 years showed an understanding of the self‐presentational (SP) function of disclaimers. The disclaimer's mitigating function was only found when the activity outcome was negative. More positive judgements with familiar peers, but more SP justifications with unfamiliar peers.

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