Chapter

Credulity and the development of selective trust in early childhood

Paul L. Harris, Kathleen H. Corriveau, Elisabeth S. Pasquini, Melissa Koenig, Maria Fusaro and Fabrice Clément

in Foundations of Metacognition

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646739
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745867 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646739.003.0013
Credulity and the development of selective trust in early childhood

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When faced with two informants making conflicting claims, preschool children display two heuristics: (1) they preferentially seek and endorse information from the informant with whom they have a stronger social connection, and (2) they preferentially seek and endorse information from the informant who has been more accurate in the past. When these two heuristics are placed in competition with one another, for example, when children encounter a familiar informant who has been inaccurate and an unfamiliar informant who has been accurate, younger preschoolers (3-year-olds) seek and endorse information from the more familiar informant whereas older preschoolers (5-year-olds) seek and endorse information from the more accurate informant. Preschoolers’ growing sensitivity to accuracy can be plausibly interpreted as a metacognitive inference: they regard an informant who provides accurate answers as knowledgeable and hence likely to supply trustworthy information in the future. Nevertheless, more research is needed to establish how far children think of informants as contributing in a more or less trustworthy fashion to their own knowledge base.

Keywords: metacognition; development; children; selective trust; credulity; familiarity of informants; knowledgeable informants; testimony

Chapter.  10335 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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