Children's understanding of disclaimers

Dawn Watling, Robin Banerjee

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Individuals who anticipate poor performance on some imminent task often offer disclaimers – verbal statements which serve to protect them from negative social evaluation by dissociating the poor performance from their identity. In the present study, 7- to 14-year-olds (N = 226) responded to hypothetical vignettes where the protagonists either used or did not use a disclaimer when telling a peer audience that they did not expect to perform well on an imminent task. Children made predictions about the evaluations that the peer audience would form of the protagonists, regarding both their imminent performance and their typical performance. Children over 10 years of age recognised that a disclaimer would lead the audience to form a more favourable impression of the protagonists‟ typical performance. Further, boys who were more preferred by their classmates tended to have a better understanding of the social evaluation consequences of using a disclaimer. Results are discussed in the light of research on children‟s growing self-presentational awareness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-36
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • disclaimer
  • self-presentation
  • impression management
  • social cognition
  • peer relations
  • defensive tactics

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