Does your three-year-old child get grumpy when someone else plays with his or her toys? It is because children's judgement are more in line with adults, and can instinctively understand the ownership, say researchers.
The researchers suggested that even very small children can understand ownership of an object based on its location, and can sense an item's ownership without seeing someone interact with it.
They intuitively knew who owns an item, even if their parents have not pointed that out to them.
"People are often concerned about their children's possessiveness--the 'gimmes'--but I think they often have adult-like intuitions about ownership," said Ori Friedman, Professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
"Previous research looked at how children understand the ownership of an object after someone has interacted with it or talked about it. But in the real world, we're surrounded by objects that no one is interacting with or near, and it's still important to know who owns what," added lead author Brandon W. Goulding from the varsity.
The study, published in journal Cognition, included data from children aged three to five years old who were shown slides that depicted two yards divided by a roadway and told one house belonged to a person and the other to his neighbour.
Each yard contained various objects such as flowers or a lawnmower. Without being told any information about the objects, the children were asked to determine whether they belonged to the person or his neighbour.
The results showed that children of all ages could infer that the person owned the objects in his yard, but not objects in his neighbour's yard.
They could also infer ownership when the person was moved across the street to visit his neighbour, suggesting the proximity of the owner to his territory wasn't key to their understanding.