Selective Trust and Theory of Mind in Brazilian Children: Effects of Socioeconomic Background

Debora de Hollanda Souza, Sarah Suárez, Melissa Ann Koenig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The present study was the first to investigate the ability to selectively trust reliable informants in a sample of Brazilian preschool children from two different socioeconomic backgrounds. Ninety-three 3- and 4-year-old children, equally distributed across a low- and medium-SES group, participated. A standard selective trust task was used. Participants also completed the Scale of Theory-of Mind Tasks and a vocabulary test (PPVT). Children from the mid-SES group showed higher vocabulary and theory-of-mind scores, but surprisingly, their performance in the selective trust task was significantly worse than the low-SES group. No age effect was found, but results suggest a significant main effect of condition, with participants performing better when an accurate informant was pitted against a neutral informant in comparison to when an inaccurate informant was pitted against a neutral informant. This pattern of results contrasts with previous evidence with 3-year-old children in the U.S., who showed more selective performance in the presence of inaccurate informants. These findings are the first to demonstrate the influence of family SES on selective learning in childhood and point to promising lines of investigation on how mechanisms of selective trust may vary across socioeconomic contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-184
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cognition and Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 11 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research and manuscript preparation were funded by grants # 2010/11757-7 and # 2013/11050-9 from The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP- Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo) and by the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES- Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - Brasil) - Finance Code 001. This study is part of the research program of the National Institute of Science and Technology on Behavior, Cognition, and Teaching, supported by grants from the Brazilian National Research Council - CNPq (Grants # 573972/2008-7 and 465686/2014-1) and The São Paulo Research Foundation - FAPESP (Grants # 2008/57705-8 and 2014/50909-8). We thank all the children, parents, and teachers who participated in our study. We also thank Natália Velludo, Rafael Lopes and Ana Carolina Messias for help with data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis.


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