Whose idea is it anyway? The importance of reputation in acknowledgement

Alex Shaw, Kristina Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Six-year-old children negatively evaluate plagiarizers just as adults do (Olson & Shaw, 2011), but why do they dislike plagiarizers? Children may think plagiarism is wrong because plagiarizing negatively impacts other people's reputations. We investigated this possibility by having 6- to 9-year-old children evaluate people who shared their own or other people's ideas (stories). In Experiment 1, we found that children consider it acceptable to retell someone else's story if the source is given credit for their story (improving the source's reputation), but not if the reteller claims credit for the story (steals credit away from someone else). Experiments 2 and 3 showed that children do not consider it bad to lie by giving someone else credit for one's own good story (improving someone else's reputation), but do consider it bad to give someone else credit for one's own bad story (improving one's own reputation at the expense of someone else's). Experiment 4 demonstrated that children think it is equally bad to take credit for someone else's idea for oneself as it is to take someone else's idea and give credit to someone else, suggesting that children dislike when others take credit away from someone else, regardless of whether or not it improves the plagiarizer's reputation. Our results suggest that children dislike plagiarism because it negatively affects others' reputations by taking credit away from them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-509
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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