Narrator: This is Science Today. When it comes to establishing and following rules, many people think that young children are solely punishment-motivated. But psychologist Kristin Lagatutta of the University of California , Davis has studied children between the ages of 4 and 7 and found that youngsters increasingly recognize that they feel good following the rules and considering the possible consequences of their actions.
Lagatutta: They were things about getting people mad or people getting hurt or people being disappointed, but it wasn't really punishment per se.
Narrator: In fact, Lagatutta's scenario-based studies found that in order to follow a rule, there had to be some sort of positive emotion for the child.
Lagatutta: What piecing this all together means is that getting kids to really internalize the rules and make kids think that this is their decision, they're making this good decision to do this, they associate that with positive emotions, they're not associating that with negative emotions.
Narrator: Lagatutta's study has implications for research on moral reasoning, as well as practical applications for teachers and parents. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin .