Children hold owners responsible when property causes harm

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Abstract
Since ancient times, legal systems have held owners responsible for harm caused by their property. Across 4 experiments, we show that children aged 3–7 also hold owners responsible for such harm. Older children judge that owners should repair harm caused by property, and younger children may do this as well. Younger and older children judge that owners should apologize for harm, even when children do not believe the owners allowed the harm to occur. Children are also as likely to hold owners responsible for harm caused by property as for harm caused by the owners themselves. The present findings contribute to psychological accounts of ownership by showing that ownership not only confers rights to control property, but also responsibility for harm caused by property. The findings also contribute to our understanding of the attribution of responsibility, and challenge accounts claiming that directly causing harm, or allowing it to happen, is a prerequisite for responsibility. The findings provide support for an account claiming that property is an extension of its owner, and likewise reveal that responsibility for harm caused by property is an early developing aspect of the psychology of ownership. 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
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Archival date: 2018-06-08
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2018-06-01

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