British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 2 Issue 3 (September 1984), Pages 191-286

Developmental changes in application of the majority rule in group decisions (pages 275-281)

This study examined age‐related changes in the child's application of the principle of majority rule in group decisions. Following a problem posed by Moessinger (1981), we enquired whether children routinely apply the majority rule when the majority consists of a shifting (variable) set of members across decisions, and alternate between majority and minority when the majority and minority is fixed, i.e. consists of the same individuals each time. In Geneva, Moessinger found that 8‐year‐olds failed to discriminate between fixed and shifting majorities, while most 13‐year‐olds (75 per cent) did so. An altered replication was conducted in Australia modifying Moessinger's procedure to control for extraneous variables such as ‘set’ and the need for variety in choice. It was found that on the task 7 per cent of 8‐year‐olds, 20 per cent of 10‐year‐olds, 32 per cent of 12‐year‐olds, and 39 per cent of 14‐year‐olds discriminated on a behavioural criterion between fixed and shifting majorities. Ten per cent of 8‐year‐olds, 40 per cent of 10‐year‐olds, 52 per cent of 12‐year‐olds, and 55 per cent of 14‐year‐olds made the discrimination on Moessinger's cognitive ‘reason’ criterion. The results show that development of the conceptual distinction between fixed and shifting majorities is gradual and continuous.

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