Selective social belief revision in preschoolers
von Nadja Miosga
Datum der mündl. Prüfung:2019-03-27
Betreuer:Prof. Dr. Hannes Rakoczy
Gutachter:Prof. Dr. Hannes Rakoczy
Gutachter:Prof. Dr. Stefan Schulz-Hardt
EnglischRecent research has shown that from the early beginning of development, children selectively form new beliefs by monitoring the competence and reliability of social sources of information (e.g., Harris, 2012). Successful learning strategies, however, do not just rely on testimony of others but rather need to be selective both as a function of the quality of supplied information and one’s own informational quality. So far, little is known about the development of selective revision of existing beliefs in response to socially conveyed information. In contrast, such selective social belief revison has been extensively studied by social psychologists in the context of advice-taking. Findings of this research show that adults revise their judgments taking into account advice in a selective and systematical fashion; and thus benefit from these revisions by increasing the accuracy of their judgments (e.g., Bonaccio & Dalal, 2006). From a developmental point of view, the fundamental question is how such advice-taking or social belief revision evolves. As part of this dissertation, three studies have been conducted to address children’s willingness and competence to revise beliefs as a function of their own and the advisor’s state of knowledge, their sensitivity toward advice justification, and their ability to solve decision problems collectively. In Study 1 4- to 6-year-old children and adults solved a perceptual judgment task, received advice, and subsequently made final decisions. The informational access (perceptual quality) of participants and advisor were experimentally manipulated. Adults revised their judgments systematically as a function of both their own and the advisor’s informational access while children based their adjustments only on their own informational access. Two follow-up experiments suggest, however, that this pattern of results in children reflected performance rather than competence limitations: In suitably modified tasks, children did consider both their own information and that of the advisor in their selective social belief revision. Study 2 was designed to investigate whether preschoolers are sensitive to advice justified by arguments differing in quality, and the effect of this justification on subsequent advice utilization. To this end advisors supported their judgment by giving a reason for why they want the final judgment to be consistent with the advice. Results revealed the following: Firstly, children weigh information as a function of argument quality, however, only if cues of argument quality are unambiguous. And secondly, arguments phrased similarly were endorsed differently as a function of context. This support children’s ability to judge arguments based on the epistemic relationship between information and argument. In Study 3 4- to 6-year-old children and adults worked in dyads and jointly solved the perceptual judgment task. In a first step participants judged a stimulus individually, then discussed their individual judgments and agreed on a joint decision. Dyads mainly trusted the information supported by the strongest evidence. However, children differed in the successfulness of their joint decisions as a function of meta-talk strategies. Results suggest that preschoolers can reason with one another appropriately, and in particular reflect on individual informational access. However, more advanced meta-talk strategies identifying causal relationships between the informational access and the quality of an individual judgment may develop in an explicit form not before school age. Taken together, the findings of this dissertation indicate that 4- to 6-year-old children are willing and able to revise existing beliefs as a function of the quality of both their own and socially supplied information. This competence was shown in different forms of social interaction: firstly, when information is presented as mere judgment of an advisor, secondly, when advice is supported by arguments and thirdly, when information is reviewed in the process of collective decision-making.
Keywords: Developmental Psychology; Advice-taking; Social learning