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UBC Theses and Dissertations
Variations in children's use of individuals' past accuracy Brosseau-Liard, Patricia Élisabeth
Young children learn an abundance of information about the world from other people. Yet, people sometimes provide inaccurate or questionable information. Hence, when learning from others, it is advantageous to be selective and evaluate the likely accuracy of the information and its source. Previous research has shown that preschool-age children can attend to a variety of cues indicative of others’ knowledge and use those cues to guide their learning. Yet, just because children can use knowledge cues to guide their selective learning does not mean that they do so, or even should do so, in all circumstances. The present research assessed children's understanding of whether these cues predict a person’s future knowledge of different types of information by examining variations in children’s use of an individual's past accuracy depending on the type of information being learned. Experiments 1 to 3 demonstrated that 4-year-olds generalized past accuracy in a savvy way, using it to moderate their learning across different types of objective information but abstaining from generalizing to situations involving subjective information. In contrast, 3-year-olds (Experiments 1-2) used past accuracy narrowly, failing to generalize an individual’s past accuracy in one area of knowledge to situations that involved learning in another area of knowledge. Experiments 4 and 5 investigated whether children ages 4 to 7 understand that past accuracy demonstrated with generalizable, or category-level, information is a useful predictor of other generalizable knowledge but not of idiosyncratic, or instance-specific, knowledge. Children used an individual’s past accuracy to decide whether or not to learn generalizable information from that individual or from a different source, but wisely disregarded past accuracy when learning idiosyncratic information. Experiments 6 and 7 further demonstrated that 4- and 5-year-olds are more likely to use past accuracy when learning generalizable than idiosyncratic information and appropriately use others’ information access to predict their idiosyncratic knowledge. Overall, this research demonstrates that preschool- and early-school-age children possess a nuanced understanding of the predictive value of knowledge cues for different types of knowledge. The implications of these results for children’s developing understanding of the mind and other aspects of social cognition are discussed.
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