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Young children's evaluation of sources : an investigation of social context effects

  • Author(s): Gee, Caroline Lee-win
  • et al.

The studies contained in this dissertation examined children's reasoning about people as sources of information. Of interest was the extent to which children use social context cues to evaluate source credibility. Chapter 2 examined children's reasoning about motives when evaluating sources. In a series of experiments (N=296), participants heard scenarios in which characters' motivations to reveal truthful information were systematically manipulated. Both elementary and preschool children used contextual cues to judge the credibility of what individuals say about themselves. This research also provides evidence that children's reasoning about self- presentation may be linked to their beliefs about social acceptability norms. Chapter 3 presents evidence of children's use of age as a social category to infer a source's knowledgeability. Two studies (N=112) found that elementary school and preschool children understand that age may be a cue to knowledgeability, but that expertise information takes precedence over age information when both are presented. Furthermore, participants showed an understanding of the different kinds of knowledge that an adult and a child may have. Chapter 4 examined similarity as a source credibility cue when establishing preferences in two studies (N=89). Preschool children reported that it was appropriate to use gender to evaluate sources, but not shared preferences. Results from a behavioral task provide evidence of children using both shared gender and shared preferences in some contexts. Furthermore, children's responses to explicit questions were associated with individual differences in memory of that source cue, suggesting that children are better able to remember social information they view as important. Although young children are often viewed as unsophisticated in their use of information from others, this dissertation provides evidence that, by 4 years of age, they are already using a wide range of cues, including information about the mental life of others when reasoning about this information

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