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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A reverse curse of knowledge in childhood Ghrear, Siba


Communicating effectively involves reasoning about what others know. Yet ample research shows that our ability to reason about what others’ know is sometimes compromised by the ‘curse of knowledge’: a tendency to be biased by one’s current knowledge when reasoning about a more naïve perspective. To date no research has examined this bias in children’s estimates of how widely known information is among their peers. My thesis fills that gap. One hundred and twenty 4 to 7-year-olds were presented with eight factual questions and asked to judge how common that knowledge is among their peers. Children were taught the answers to only half of the questions. I predicted that: 1. Children would estimate that more of their peers would know the answers to the facts they were taught versus not taught, 2. The bias would decrease with age, and 3. The magnitude of children’s bias in their peer judgements would correlate with the magnitude of their bias in judging another individual’s visual perspective. Contrary to my predictions, children estimated that less of their peers would know the answers to the taught versus not taught questions. Children’s ‘reverse curse of knowledge’ did not vary by age and did not correlate with their judgement of another individual’s visual perspective. Nonetheless, these results shed light on the nature of the mechanisms underlying the curse of knowledge and make important contributions to our understanding of how children reason about what others know.

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