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Trust, but verify!: effects of informants' popularity status on preschool children's epistemic trust

Grant number: 21/13017-5
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research
Effective date (Start): May 27, 2022
Effective date (End): February 09, 2023
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Psychology - Human Development Psychology
Principal Investigator:Débora de Hollanda Souza
Grantee:Débora de Hollanda Souza
Host Investigator: Tamar Kushnir
Host Institution: Centro de Educação e Ciências Humanas (CECH). Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCAR). São Carlos , SP, Brazil
Research place: Duke University, United States  
Associated research grant:14/50909-8 - INCT 2014: Behavior, Cognition and Teaching (INCT-ECCE): relational learning and symbolic functioning, AP.TEM


Much of what we learn about the world and about how it works cannot be learned from direct experience and depends on testimony from others. Research from the last 20 years has shown that even young children (3- and 4-year-olds) selectively trust testimony; in other words, from an early age, children can discriminate good and bad informants in different learning situations. This line of investigation is particularly valuable at the present moment when we question why some individuals are more prone than others to believe in fake news. Recently, some researchers have been trying to explore individual and contextual differences that may explain variance in epistemic trust in preschool aged children. For example, data from an ongoing collaborative study between this proponent and Melissa Koenig (ICD, UMN) revealed that children from low-SES families present disadvantages in vocabulary and theory-of-mind development in comparison to children from middle-class families; however, the former group has surprisingly better performance than the latter in a selective trust task. Following a different direction, some researchers have been trying to identify characteristics of potential informants that may influence children's epistemic judgments. There is evidence, for example, that 3- and 4-year-old children prefer to learn something new from a person who consistently provides accurate information and not from someone who often provides inaccurate information. Moreover, they prefer to learn something from someone who is an expert in the subject to be learned, someone who shows confidence, or yet someone who is intelligent, honest, and good. The present proposal aims to continue this promising line of studies by investigating the effect of popularity/celebrity status of potential informants on selective trust in a sample of 48 preschoolers (3 to 6 years of age). During her visit to Duke University, the proponent aims to conduct the following research activities under the supervision of Dr. Tamar Kushnir: a) to run a study investigating if U.S. children show preference for a famous informant/celebrity over a specialist in a learning situation; c) to continue an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Melissa Koenig (ICD/UMN), investigating possible effects of inconsistency between speech and behavior ("Do as I say, but not as I do!") in children's trust judgments. Together, these activities, to be conducted over a period of 10 months, represent an unique opportunity for the proponent to consolidate important international collaborations, which can benefit not only her and the Psychology graduate program at UFSCar, but also the research program of the National Institute on Behavior, Cognition and Teaching (INCT-ECCE) to which she is affiliated. Moreover, the results of such collaborations can make significant contributions to the field of developmental science, especially by providing novel cross-cultural data of children's developing epistemic trust. (AU)

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