Emergence and Cognitive Correlates of Evaluative Audience Perception Open Access

Botto, Sara (Spring 2020)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/41687j704?locale=en


For the past few decades, research has documented how reputational concerns change adults’ and children’s behavior across contexts. For instance, in public, but not in private, adults and children are significantly more generous, conform to the opinion of the majority, and make explicit attempts to manage their reputation. Clearly, the concern for others’ potential evaluations influence much of human behavior. However, despite this concern being central to human psychology, little is known about its ontogeny. In particular, when do children begin to show first signs of a concern for the potential evaluation of others, what we refer to here as evaluative audience perception? And what does it take to develop such a concern? Using a developmental perspective, the present dissertation explored potential social-cognitive abilities — including children’s objectified sense of self, their theory of mind, and their norm understanding — that might predict the emergence of evaluative audience perception in 14- to 27-month-old children (= 59). Specifically, we hypothesized that if these three social-cognitive abilities are potential pre-requisites of evaluative audience perception, then children who showed all three social-cognitive abilities would be more likely to strategically modify their behavior based on the previously demonstrated values of the experimenter, as well as her relative attention (looking versus not looking at the child). In support of this hypothesis, results showed that only children who displayed theory of mind, an objectified sense of self, and normativity, strategically modified their behavior depending on whether they were being observed. In particular, we found that — independent of age, general cognitive competency, or temperament  — children who demonstrated all three social-cognitive abilities were significantly more likely to reproduce an outcome that had been positively valued by the experimenter when the experimenter was watching, but then chose to reproduce an outcome that had been negatively valued by the experimenter once the experimenter had turned her back. On the whole, this dissertation sheds light on a potential cognitive mechanism underlying the human concern for reputation.

Table of Contents


Reputational concern in adults and children2

Evaluative audience perception as the foundation for reputation4

Emergence of evaluative audience perception in the second year7

Cognitive correlates of evaluative audience perception8

The present study21




Measures and Procedures25


Scoring of social-cognitive abilities38


Planned analyses38


Descriptive statistics and task relations39

Preliminary analyses44

Age and evaluative audience perception44

Relation between social-cognitive competency and evaluative audience perception45

Relation between spatial task and evaluative audience perception45 

Post hoc analyses46


Plausible developmental models49


Limitations and future directions55




Table 1. Summary of Tasks and Cognitive Measures 72

Table 2. Descriptive Statistics for Robot Task 1 and 273

Table 3. Descriptive Statistics and Relations of Cognitive Measures74

Table 4. Descriptive Statistics for Questionnaires and Control Measures75


Figure 1. Bird’s Eye-view of Experimental Set-up76

Figure 2. Order of Tasks Administered in Testing Session77

Figure 3. Button-Pressing Behavior Across Social-Cognitive Groups 78

Figure 3. Potential Developmental Models of Evaluative Audience Perception79

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