I'm a fifth-year developmental psychology PhD student at Yale University. I work primarily with Dr. Paul Bloom in the Mind & Development Lab. At Yale, I'm broadly interested in social cognitive development with a particular focus on how children reason about moral and social issues. Specifically, I am currently fascinated in questions related to (1) in what contexts and for what reasons children punish others, (2) how children reason about obligations, and (3) why children exhibit prejudice.
Prior to graduate school, I worked with Dr. Scott Lilienfeld at Emory University. There, I primarily investigated psychopathy's relationship to moral judgment.
How do children punish antisocial others?
Previous research has demonstrated that toddlers are willing to punish those who harm others. Much of this work, however, has predominantly focused on punishment in the form of resource reduction—taking a resource away or withholding access to a resource from an antisocial other. In some of our recent work, we examined whether 2- to 7-year-old children engage in direct, corporal punishment against antisocial others in third-party contexts.
Children were either given the opportunity to hit an antisocial and a prosocial puppet with a hammer or to press a button so that the puppets would be hit with a hammer (as shown below). We find that children are largely uninterested in preferentially hurting antisocial others. These null findings obtain even though we find that children do evaluate the antisocial puppet as mean and understand that pressing the hit button hurts the puppet.
These findings suggest that children lack a strong desire to corporally punish third-party social wrongdoers, and illustrate the importance of considering different types of punishment in assessing the development of third-party punishment.
For additional information on this project, see this paper.
Why do children punish antisocial others?
Young children and adults alike punish antisocial others at personal cost. Recently, we have explored what motivations underlie this behavior. Ample research with adults finds that people are motivated by a combination of two concerns: (1) retribution—people punish because they think antisocial others deserve their “just deserts”; and, (2) consequences—they punish because punishment confers prosocial benefits. But, what about children? In these projects, we examine why 4- to 7-year-olds punish: are they motivated by retribution, consequences, or a mixture of both?
To do so, children were given the opportunity to punish an antisocial child by locking up an iPad, but doing so meant the participant could not play themselves. We manipulated whether punishment exclusively satisfied retributive concerns or also carried an added consequentialist benefit. Specifically, in the retributive condition, participants were told the antisocial child would not know why the iPad was locked up, would not learn a lesson, but would feel sad because he or she would not be allowed to play with the iPad. In the consequential condition, children were told that the antisocial child would know the iPad was locked up because of bad behavior, would learn a lesson, and would feel sad. Children punished in both contexts, but punished more when it served a consequential function. These findings mirror work with adults, suggesting that the motives underlie punishment may not be a result of a highly learned or habitized process.
How do children reason about obligations?
As adults, we have very specific ideas about the nature of one's obligations. For example, we think it is good to help strangers, but this is far from something we have to do, whereas we think one has an obligation to help their children. Similarly, we consider institutional actors, such as police officers, parents, and teachers, obligated to pursue the punishment of antisocial others, but ordinary citizens are not bestowed such a duty. In this way, the way adults reason about obligations appears grounded in an understanding of social roles.
With this in mind, we have investigated whether children think similarly to adults. Do children subscribe to a social-role-dependent perspective when reasoning about obligations to help or to punish? We find, for the most part, that they do not. Children from a young age think one's obligations transcend one's social role. In other words, one should help others regardless of relational context and one should punish others regardless of institutional status. We have investigated these questions with both children in the United States and children in India. We also have an ongoing collaboration with University of Hamburg to investigate how children in Germany reason about similar issues in addition to data collection sites in Uganda and also Japan.
For information about this work, see "Children's Understanding of Institutional Obligations to Punish" below.
Why do children and adults exhibit prejudice?
Much research has documented that children exhibit prejudice against a variety of groups from a young age. In some recent work with my collaborator, Anton Gollwitzer, we have examined one potential cause of children's prejudice -- children's aversion to broken patterns. This work has rendered two central findings. For one, children from a young age (~3 years old) dislike broken patterns. And, secondly, this dislike of broken patterns correlates with the degree children dislike social norm-breakers. We have also thoroughly examined this relationship in work with adults, where we find very similar robust results.
In more recent investigations into this relationship, we have adopted experimental (rather than correlational) designs to see the causal role pattern deviancy aversion plays in children's and adult's prejudicial attitudes.
For information about this general research topic, read this paper.
13. Marshall, J., Wynn, K., & Bloom, P. (in press). Do children and adults take social relationship into account when evaluating other peoples' actions? Child Development.
12. Marshall, J. (2019). Obligations without cooperation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences; Commentary on "The Moral Psychology of Obligation".
11. Gollwitzer, A., Marshall, J., & Bargh, J. (2019). Pattern deviancy predicts prejudice via a dislike of statistical minorities. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
10. Marshall, J., Gollwitzer, A., Wynn, K., & Bloom, P. (2019). The development of third-party corporal punishment. Cognition, 190, 221-229.
9. Marshall, J., Gollwitzer, A., Santos, L. (2018). Two tests of an implicit mentalizing system: Evidence for the submentalizing position. PLoS One.
8. Gollwitzer, A., Marshall, J., Wang, Y., & Bargh, J. (2017). Pattern deviancy aversion: A building block of stigma and prejudice. Nature Human Behavior.
7. Wynn, K., Bloom, P., Jordan, A., Marshall, J., & Sheskin, M. (2017). Not noble savages after all: Limits to early altruism. Current Directions in Psychological Science.
6. Marshall, J., Watts, A.L., Frankel, E., Lilienfeld, S.O. (2017). An examination of psychopathy’s relationship with two indices of moral judgment. Personality and Individual Differences.
5. Marshall, J., Lilienfeld, S.O., Mayberg, H., & Clark, S. (2017). The mixed effects of neurological information and brain images on perceptions of psychopathic wrongdoers. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology.
4. Marshall, J., Watts, A., & Lilienfeld, S.O. (2016). Do psychopathic individuals possess a misaligned moral compass? A meta-analytic examination of psychopathy’s relations with moral judgment. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment.
3. Lilienfeld, S.O., Aslinger, E., Marshall, J., & Satel, S. (2016). A field guide to exaggerated brain-based claims. In Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics.
2. Rommelfanger, K., Marshall, J., Wolpe, P.R., (2016). Neuroethics, In Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbook: Philosophy.
1. Lilienfeld, S. O., Marshall, J., Todd, J. T., & Shane, H. C. (2015). The persistence of fad interventions in the face of negative scientific evidence: Facilitated communication for autism as a case example. Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, 8, 1-40.