How do children attribute success?

    • Topic: Cognitive Development

    • Location: Discovery Center

    Research has shown that the way children approach challenges can change depending on the reasons they believe a person might succeed in completing a task. In this study, we are investigating how different explanations of success change how children think about a new game.

    Children (4-7 years old) will hear conflicting opinions about success from two puppets and then choose which one they agree with. Then, children will be taught how to play a new shape-matching puzzle game, and a researcher will give an explanation as to why some kids tend to do very well at the game, while others may not (e.g. “because they tried hard”, “because they were smart”, “because they have games like this at home”). Children will then play the game again, and answer questions about what they thought about the game, and what might make someone successful at the game.

    We are particularly interested in whether giving an explanation related to the resources that are available to someone (e.g. “because they have games like this at home”), impact children’s attributions of success.

    This study will help us better understand what kinds of barriers or advantages might impact children’s perceptions of their own abilities. These findings may help us know how to encourage and motivate children to respond to challenges in the future.

    This research is conducted at the Museum of Science, Boston by the Boston University Social Development and Learning Lab.

        » Boston University Social Development and Learning Lab

    Activities to Try in the Discovery Center

    Sneak Around

    Take your child to A Bird's Word in the lower level of the Green Wing, and invite your child to try the "Sneaking Corridor" activity. Are they initially successful at sneaking past the bird? How do they respond to their success or failure at the task - are they motivated to try again? Notice the type of feedback you give after they attempt the task. Are you attributing their level of success to their ability, praising their hard work, or pointing out environmental factors that influenced their success? How does your feedback impact their motivation to try again? Is your child more motivated to try the "easy" or the "hard" challenge?

    Activities to Try at Home

    Board Games

    Play a board game with your child, and notice their reactions when they win or lose. Have a discussion with your child to understand what they think made them successful or not. Ask them what factors they think affected their ability to win - was it their natural talent? Their hard work? Their experience with other games like the one you just played?

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