Trust in testimony: How children learn about science and religion

Paul L. Harris, Melissa A. Koenig

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

386 Scopus citations


Many adult beliefs are based on the testimony provided by other people rather than on firsthand observation. Children also learn from other people's testimony. For example, they learn that mental processes depend on the brain, that the earth is spherical, and that hidden bodily organs constrain life and death. Such learning might indicate that other people's testimony simply amplifies children's access to empirical data. However, children's understanding of God's special powers and the afterlife shows that their acceptance of others' testimony extends beyond the empirical domain. Thus, children appear to conceptualize unobservable scientific and religious entities similarly. Nevertheless, some children distinguish between the 2 domains, arguably because a different pattern of discourse surrounds scientific as compared to religious entities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-524
Number of pages20
JournalChild development
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


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