Preschoolers do not often view a copycat negatively, but they do so by the age of 5 or 6, researchers have revealed.
University of Washington psychologist Kristina Olson said that physical property is something that can be seen, but intellectual property is something that can't be seen, and it's hard to understand, let alone place a value on that.
She said that it's not surprising that it's so hard for younger kids to understand intellectual property rights.
The researchers wanted to know whether young children in different cultures placed more value on unique artwork or copies of someone else's work. They evaluated 3- to 6-year-old children in the United States, Mexico and China - chosen by the researchers based on the different emphasis each country places on the protection of intellectual property and ideas.
Researchers had children watch videos of puppets producing a unique drawing or plagiarizing another character's drawing. The videos were in the children's native language (English, Mandarin or Spanish).
Each child watched three 30-second videos. At the beginning of each video, one puppet looked at what the other puppet was drawing. In one video, the puppet that peeked then created an identical drawing.
In the second video, he created a similar drawing with the same theme but different colors and shape elements. In the third, the puppet that looked at the other's drawing drew a completely different picture.
After watching each video, the children rated how good or bad the puppets were.
Five- and 6-year-olds from all three cultures rated the puppet who copied the others' work negatively. However, 3- and 4-year-olds evaluated plagiarism much differently than the older children, as well as differently across cultures.
The results have been published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.