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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Children's Novelty Preferences Depend on Information-Seeking Goals

  • Author(s): Sehl, Claudia G.;
  • Friedman, Ori;
  • Denison, Stephanie
  • et al.

Children are often drawn to novelty, but these preferences may depend on their goals. In two experiments (N = 302), we show that children have differing preferences for novelty when seeking information compared to when they are asked to prioritize other goals. In Experiment 1, 4-7-year-olds wanted to have typical items (e.g., a four-legged chair) and learn about atypical items (e.g., a ten-legged chair). In Experiment 2, 4-6- year-olds wanted to learn about foreign characters, but liked foreign and local characters equally. We propose that children prefer to learn about novel instances for the promise of new information, which is evident in at least two domains (artifacts and people). However, this preference diminishes when children are asked about who they like, and it reverses to a familiarity preference when choosing between artifacts to acquire. In sum, our findings suggest that children’s preferences for novelty versus familiarity are sensitive to different goals.

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