Parental praise and children’s exploration: A virtual reality experiment

E. Brummelman*, S. Grapsas, K. van der Kooij

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

When children practice a new skill and fail, it is critical for them to explore new strategies to succeed. How can parents encourage children's exploration? Bridging insights from developmental psychology and the neuroscience of motor control, we examined the effects of parental praise on children's motor exploration. We theorize that modest praise can spark exploration. Unlike inflated praise, modest praise acknowledges children's performance, without setting a high standard for future performance. This may be reassuring to children with lower levels of self-esteem, who often doubt their ability. We conducted a novel virtual-reality experiment. Children (N = 202, ages 8-12) reported self-esteem and performed a virtual-reality 3D trajectory-matching task, with success/failure feedback after each trial. Children received modest praise ("You did well!"), inflated praise ("You did incredibly well!"), or no praise from their parent. We measured motor exploration as children's tendency to vary their movements following failure. Relative to no praise, modest praise-unlike inflated praise-encouraged exploration in children with lower levels of self-esteem. By contrast, modest praise discouraged exploration in children with higher levels of self-esteem. Effects were small yet robust. This experiment demonstrates that modest praise can spark exploration in children with lower levels of self-esteem.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4967
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalScientific Reports
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Child
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Parents
  • Problem Solving
  • Self Concept
  • Virtual Reality

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