Document Type



Author's Final Manuscript

Publication Title

Child Development

Publication Date



A critical skill of childhood is learning social norms. We examine whether the generic pronouns “you” and “we,” which frame information as applying to people in general rather than to a specific individual, facilitate this process. In one pre-registered experiment conducted online between 2020 and 2021, children 4- to 9-year-old primarily living in the midwestern U.S. (N = 146, 75 girls, 71 boys, Mage = 7.14, SD = 1.69, 82% White) interpreted actions described with generic pronouns (vs. “I”) as normatively correct and selected the speaker who used generic pronouns as the rule-follower, particularly when generic pronouns were presented first. There were no significant effects of age. These results illustrate how generic pronouns influence how children discern unfamiliar norms and form interpersonal judgments.


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