Preschoolers mistrust ignorant and inaccurate speakers

Melissa A. Koenig, Paul L. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

460 Scopus citations


Being able to evaluate the accuracy of an informant is essential to communication. Three experiments explored preschoolers' (N = 119) understanding that, in cases of conflict, information from reliable informants is preferable to information from unreliable informants. In Experiment 1, children were presented with previously accurate and inaccurate informants who presented conflicting names for novel objects. 4-year-olds - but not 3-year-olds-predicted whether an informant would be accurate in the future, sought, and endorsed information from the accurate over the inaccurate informant. In Experiment 2, both age groups displayed trust in knowledgeable over ignorant speakers. In Experiment 3, children extended selective trust when learning both verbal and nonverbal information. These experiments demonstrate that preschoolers have a key strategy for assessing the reliability of information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1261-1277
Number of pages17
JournalChild development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes


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