chapter  3
13 Pages

Does understanding about knowledge and belief influence children’s trust in testimony?


Young children can evaluate information appropriately in circumstances similar to these. In tasks suitable for their age, children from the age of around 4 years believe somebody who is better informed than they are themselves, and ignore someone who is less well informed or equally poorly informed. For example, children believed what they were told about a hidden toy’s hardness only when their informant felt it (Robinson, Champion, & Mitchell, 1999; Robinson, Haigh, & Nurmsoo, 2008; Robinson & Whitcombe, 2003). Importantly, if the informant subsequently had doubts about his access to the target object, saying “I’m not sure I felt it properly”, 4-to 5-year-olds appropriately lost confidence in what he had told them (Robinson et al., 2008). This is just as we would expect if they were reasoning “I originally believed what you told me because I thought you were well informed; if after all you were not, then you could have been wrong.” Three-year-olds showed reduced confidence in the informant’s claim immediately after he expressed doubt about his access, but did not do so after a brief delay, suggesting they had only a tenuous grasp of the source of their knowledge.