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Learning from others through testimony and statistics


In learning about the world, children have at least two types of information available to them: information they learn from their personal experiences, and information they receive from others. This dissertation examines how children use both of these types of information to make inferences about others. In chapter 1, I discuss the role of this work in the context of previous developmental psychology research. In chapter 2, I present a set of empirical studies in which children inferred an agent's graded preferences from observing his choice actions. In chapter 3, I present a second set of empirical studies, in which children's endorsement of majority testimony differs based on domain type and amount of personal experience available. In chapter 4, I present a third set of empirical studies in which children assessed informants' knowledge sources and chose options endorsed by informants who received their knowledge from more reliable sources of knowledge. In chapter 5, I discuss the implications of this work and suggest future directions. Overall, the empirical work included in this dissertation suggests preschoolers' inferences abilities are more sophisticated than previously demonstrated: they can use contextual information in conjunction with statistical information, and can use that to make inferences about others' mental states and knowledge.

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