"Do what she says? Or do what I know?” The impact of an adult’s prior accuracy and plausible or implausible testimony on four-year-olds behaviour

Jumana Mohamedally (2011). "Do what she says? Or do what I know?” The impact of an adult’s prior accuracy and plausible or implausible testimony on four-year-olds behaviour Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Jumana Mohamedally
Thesis Title "Do what she says? Or do what I know?” The impact of an adult’s prior accuracy and plausible or implausible testimony on four-year-olds behaviour
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-10-12
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Dr Mark Nielsen
Total pages 85
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Abstract/Summary Young children display a highly robust bias to trust what adults say. Recent studies have found, however, that by age four children are able to track the prior accuracy of one adult relative to another when deciding whether or not to learn new information (Koenig, Clement & Harris, 2004). They also place greater emphasis on what they have directly observed rather than what they have been told (Clement, Koenig & Harris, 2004; Ma & Ganea, 2010). The present study explored how four year olds would respond when an adult’s testimony contradicted their knowledge and beliefs about how the world works. It also investigated if they would be more sceptical towards information given to them by a single informant who had been established as incompetent rather than competent. Forty-eight four year old children were randomly assigned to one of four conditions – Control; Reliable Informant, Plausible Testimony; Reliable Informant, Implausible Testimony and Unreliable Informant, Plausible Testimony. Children were exposed to an adult who labelled objects and performed simple actions accurately (reliable conditions) or inaccurately (unreliable condition). The adult informant then gave children plausible or implausible testimony about where she had hidden a ball, poured water, or what she had used to unlock a box. Children were asked to find the ball and water, and to open the box. As predicted, children in the Implausible condition followed the informant’s testimony significantly less than those in the Reliable Plausible condition. Close exploration of this effect revealed interesting outcomes as although children in the Implausible condition exercised scepticism towards the informant on some trials, they were deferent towards her on others. Children in the Reliable and Unreliable Plausible conditions followed the informant at similar rates. The findings inform the importance of testimony to the human condition, both in terms of our success and for the maintenance of culture.
Keyword Plausible and implausible testimony
4-year-olds behaviour
Tracking prior accuracy
Observation vs instruction

 
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