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The Influence of praise on help-seeking behavior in young children


This dissertation investigated whether different forms of praise could affect the latency of help-seeking in young children. Two forms of praise were investigated: person- praise and process-praise. Previous research found that process-praise led to greater task persistence than person -praise. In experiment 1, four-year-old children were asked to solve a series of wooden jigsaw puzzles. The children received either person-praise or process-praise upon solving the first four puzzles. The children were then provided with incorrect, yet highly similar puzzle pieces for two subsequent puzzles to create experiences of failure. Results replicated previous task persistence findings, however no effect on help-seeking was found. It was postulated that the obviousness of providing incorrect puzzle pieces created inauthentic failure experiences. Experiment 2 sought to tease apart the results from experiment 1 by using stimuli that created genuine failure experiences. Results revealed that person-praise reduced the latency to seek help compared to process-praise when children experienced genuine failures. In addition, experiment 2 examined the generalization of the task persistence findings by using stimuli that were different from those used when the children were praised. Results revealed that the effects of praise on task persistence did not transfer to dissimilar tasks. Individual differences were also examined in both studies using parent reported temperament ratings. The temperament domain of effortful control moderated the influence of praise on help-seeking behavior in both studies. Results showed that the type of stimuli used influenced the interactions in different ways. These findings were the first to suggest that praise could influence help-seeking behavior in young children, but only after experiencing genuine failures. We discussed possible implications this finding has on the interpretation of previous research and proposed future studies to further examine the possible influences of praise on young children's adaptive learning strategies

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