Simulating Peers: Can puppets simulate peer interactions in studies on children's socio-cognitive development?
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Interactions with peers are fundamental to socio-cognitive development, but assessing peer interactions in standardized experiments is challenging. Therefore, researchers commonly utilize puppetry to simulate peers. This Registered Report investigated urban German children's (AgeRange = 3.5–4.5 years; N = 144; 76♀) mind ascriptions and social cognition to test whether they treat puppets like peers, adults, or neither. Children attributed less mind properties to puppets than peers or adults. However, children's social cognition (i.e., normativity, prosociality, and theory of mind) varied little across partners. Puppetry relies on children's ability for pretense, but can provide valid insights into socio-cognitive development. Implications for using puppets as stand-ins for peers in developmental research are discussed.
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