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According to a recent TIME article, in today’s social-media-dominated culture, adults spend a lot of time crafting and curating their reputations, virtually and offline. New research suggests that children do the same thing in real life, too — potentially as early as age 5.

“Up until pretty recently, the consensus view in psychology was that these kind of social calculations were too complex for young children to engage in,” says Ike Silver, a marketing doctoral student at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, who co-authored a new review in Trends in Cognitive Sciences with Alex Shaw, an assistant professor of developmental psychology at the University of Chicago.

Silver and Shaw found that children appear to be “adept reputation managers” — able to understand the importance of a good reputation and the behavior required to achieve it — by the time they enter elementary school.

“It really does seem to be that around age 5, we start to engage in behaviors that require certain kinds of problem-solving: being able to think about, ‘If this person sees me doing X, what will they conclude about me?’” Silver says. “We don’t know to what extent those questions are answered consciously, but we know they must be able to answer them.”

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