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Volume 8 Issue 5 (September 2005), Pages 387-458

Children's understanding of the Ulysses conflict (pages 387-392)


Two studies explored children's understanding of how the presence of conflicting mental states in a single mind can lead people to act so as to subvert their own desires. Study 1 analyzed explanations by children (4–7 years) and adults of behaviors arising from this sort of ‘Ulysses conflict’ and compared them with their understanding of conflicting desires in different minds, as well as with changes of mind within an individual across time. The data revealed that only the adults were able to adequately explain the Ulysses conflict. Study 2 asked children (4–7 years) and adults to choose among three explicitly presented competing explanations for self‐subverting behaviors. The results suggest that an understanding of the influence of conflicting mental states on behaviors does not occur until at least 7 years of age.

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