Do children always believe everything they’re told?
From a very young age children absorb information about their surroundings as well as learning about themselves. Being that they are unable to question and explore as adults do, due to physical or cognitive restrictions, we see that much of what a child learns is through imitation. Meltzoff and Moore (1977) showed that infants from as young as 12 days can imitate both manual and facial gestures. Further on in a child's development we can see evidence that not only do children learn to imitate actions but also to imitate specific goals they witness. This method of infant information gathering is easily measurable as a simple observation can reveal if a child imitates and understands an action being performed in front of them. The question of how children understand and believe what they are told however is quite different. Different research suggests a pattern across certain age ranges of children, specifically from the age of three to five years old. For the purposes of investigation and clarity the studies used in this essay will focus on children up to the age of five.
A simple method of testing a child's belief in what they are told is to give them misinformation and then observe the child as they themselves investigate the truth of the statement. A study by Jaswal, Croft, Setia and Cole (2010) did just this. In their study they hid a sticker in one of two locations. Children where either directly told that the sticker was in a location where it was not or an arrow was placed next to the incorrect location. It was found that while initially all children searched the incorrect location the children who were told false information continued to believe it whereas the children who had only the arrow to follow soon learned that the sticker was elsewhere. It is possible to take from this study that children will believe testimony without question, that they will believe what they are told despite...
References: Jaswal, V. Croft, A. Setia, A and Cole, C (2010) Young children have a specific, highly robust bias to trust testimony, Psychol Sci , 21(10), 1541-1547
Koenig, M. Clément, F. and Harris, P (2004) Trust in testimony: Children 's use of true and false statements, Psychological Science, 15(10), 694-698
Ma, L. and Ganea, P (2010) Dealing with conflicting information: young children 's reliance on what they see versus what they are told, Developmental Science, 13(1), 151-160
Meltzoff, A.N. and Moore, M.K. (1977). Imitation of Facial and Manual Gestures by Human Neonates, Science, 198, 75-78
Pasquini, E. (2007) Trust in testimony: Monitoring the relative accuracy of informants, Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 67(12-B), 7407
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