DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.00494

Acta Psychologica Sinica (心理学报) 2018/50:5 PP.494-503

The influence of testimony's confidence and exploration on 5-year-old children's causal inference

The knowledge of statistical information, experimental results and informant's testimonies can provide important help for children to understand science world. In the past decade, the psychological mechanism of the interaction of the three kinds of information in children's scientific thinking has not been elucidated. In this study, research paradigm from Bridgers et al. (2016) had been used to explore the interaction of independent exploration and informant testimony on physical causal reasoning of 5-year-old children. Moreover, children's perception of testimony's reliability and informant's self-awareness had been analyzed simultaneously.
The proposed approach is supported by two experiments which can be summarized as follows. Experiment 1 adopted a 2×2 completely randomized design. The independent variable is the confidence of testimony (two levels:self-confidence, not-confidence) and the number of children's independent exploration (two levels:no-exploration, nine-exploration). The dependent variable is the frequency of children's choice of candidate cause. Informant's testimony (such as A is more likely to cause an effect than B) was given by an adult female in a laptop, and children played with a music box to get evidences contradicting testimony (B is more likely to cause an effect than A). In this paper, 84 preschool children (50 boys and 34 girls, mean age 63.7 months) took part in experiment 1. The results show that there are more children choose cause contradicting testimony in nine-exploration level than in no-exploration level, but the difference between treatments was not statistically significant. Moreover, children are not sensitive to the testimony's reliability and informant's self-awareness.
Experiment 1 found that the evidences support cause B did not significantly improved child's choice of cause B, in condition that testimony support cause A. The possible reason is the amount of evidence that support cause B is too small. To test this hypothesis, Experiment 2 used a big amount of evidence that support cause B to explore the interaction of independent exploration and informant's testimony. A single factor completely random experimental design was adopted in experiment 2, and the independent variable is the confidence of testimony (two levels:self-confidence, not-confidence). Experimental procedure is the same as the nine-exploration level in experiment 1. There were 54 preschool children (28 boys and 26 girls, mean age 63.9 months) took part in experiment 2, and each child independently played with a music box eighteen times. The results show that children are more likely to choose cause contradicting testimony in the eighteen-exploration level than in no-exploration level (experiment 1). Once again, children are not sensitive to testimony's reliability and informant's self-awareness.
The results of two experiments indicate that 5-year-old children can integrate the evidence from independent exploration and the testimony from informant to infer causality relationship. The number of children who choose cause contradicting testimony is increased by the increase in the number of evidence contradicting testimony. The follow-up research should focus on the interaction effect between the exploration of preschool child, the results of adult's experiment and the testimony from informants, and focus on how to motivate children to evaluate adult's self-awareness and credibility.

Key words:preschool,independent exploration,confidence of testimony,conflict evidence,causal inference

ReleaseDate:2018-07-02 16:16:01

Bridgers, S., Buchsbaum, D., Seiver, E., Griffiths, T. L., & Gopnik, A. (2016). Children's causal inferences from conflicting testimony and observations. Developmental Psychology, 52, 9-18.

Brosseau-Liard, P., Cassels, T., & Birch, S. (2014). You seem certain but you were wrong before:Developmental change in preschoolers' relative trust in accurate versus confident speakers. PLoS One, 9(9), e108308.

Bonawitz, E. B., van Schijndel, T., Friel, D., & Schulz, L. (2012). Balancing theories and evidence in children's exploration, explanations, and learning. Cognitive Psychology, 64, 215-234.

Cook, C., Goodman, N. D., & Schulz, L. E. (2011). Where science starts:Spontaneous experiments in preschoolers' exploratory play. Cognition, 120, 341-349.

Corriveau, K. H., & Harris, P. L. (2010). Preschoolers (sometimes) defer to the majority in making simple perceptual judgments. Developmental Psychology, 46, 437-445.

Corriveau, K. H., Kim, E., Song, G., & Harris, P. L. (2013). Young children's deference to a consensus varies by culture and judgment setting. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 13, 367-381.

Denison, S., Bonawitz, E., Gopnik, A., & Griffiths, T. L. (2013). Rational variability in children's causal inferences:The Sampling Hypothesis. Cognition, 126, 285-300.

Doan, S. N., & Wang, Q. (2010). Maternal discussions of mental states and behaviors:Relations to emotion situation knowledge in European American and immigrant Chinese children. Child Development, 81, 1490-1503.

Gelman, R., Brenneman, K., Macdonald, G., & Roman, M. (2010). Preschool pathways to science (PrePS):Facilitating scientific ways of thinking, talking, doing, and understanding. Baltimore, MD:Brookes.

Gopnik, A. (2012). Scientific thinking in young children:Theoretical advances, empirical research, and policy implications. Science, 337, 1623-1627.

Hu, Q. F., Chen, Y. H., & Lin, C. D. (2005). Relationships between beliefs and covariation in causal reasoning. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 37, 189-198.[胡清芬, 陈英和, 林崇德. (2005). 因果判断中经验与共变信息的结合及各自作用. 心理学报, 37, 189-198.]

Jaswal, V. K. (2010). Believing What You're Told:Young children's trust in unexpected testimony about the physical world. Cognitive Psychology, 61, 248-272.

Jaswal, V. K., Croft, A. C., Setia, A. R., & Cole, C. A. (2010). Young children have a specific, highly robust bias to trust testimony. Psychological Science, 21, 1541-1547.

Jaswal, V. K., Pérez-Edgar, K., Kondrad, R. L., & Palmquist, C. M. (2014). Can't stop believing:Inhibitory control and resistance to misleading testimony. Developmental Science, 17, 965-976.

Krogh-Jespersen, S., & Echols, C. H. (2012). The influence of speaker reliability on first versus second label learning. Child Development, 83, 581-590.

Kushnir, T., & Gopnik, A. (2007). Conditional probability versus spatial contiguity in causal learning:Preschoolers use new contingency evidence to overcome prior spatial assumptions. Developmental Psychology, 43, 186-196.

Klahr, D., Zimmerman, C., & Jirout, J. (2011). Educational interventions to advance children's scientific thinking. Science, 333, 971-975.

Koenig, M. A., & Harris, P. L. (2005). Preschoolers mistrust ignorant and inaccurate speakers. Child Development, 76, 1261-1277.

Kominsky, J. F., Langthorne, P., & Keil, F. C. (2016). The better part of not knowing:Virtuous ignorance. Developmental Psychology, 52, 31-45.

Lane, J. D., Harris, P. L., Gelman, S. A., & Wellman, H. M. (2014). More than meets the eye:Young children's trust in claims that defy their perceptions. Developmental Psychology, 50, 865-871.

Legare, C. H. (2012). Exploring explanation:Explaining inconsistent evidence informs exploratory, hypothesis-testing behavior in young children. Child Development, 83, 173-185.

Legare, C. H. (2014). The contributions of explanation and exploration to children's scientific reasoning. Child Development Perspectives, 8, 101-106.

Li, H. (2015). Preliminary study on the development of reasoning ability of Chinese children. Studies of Psychology and Behavior, 13, 637-647.[李红. (2015). 中国儿童推理能力发展的初步研究. 心理与行为研究, 13, 637-647.]

Li, H., Zheng, C. J., & Gao, X. M. (2004). Effect of rule dimensions and reasoning direction on children's causal reasoning. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 36, 550-557.[李红, 郑持军, 高雪梅. (2004). 推理方向与规则维度对儿童因果推理的影响. 心理学报, 36, 550-557.]

Li, J., Yamamoto, Y., Luo, L., Batchelor, A. K., & Bresnahan, R. M. (2010). Why attend school? Chinese immigrant and European American preschoolers' views and outcomes. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1637-1650.

Li, Y. L. (2006). Classroom organization:Understanding the context in which children are expected to learn. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34, 37-43.

Lucas, C. G., Bridgers, S., Griffiths, T. L., & Gopnik, A. (2014). When children are better (or at least more open-minded) learners than adults:Developmental differences in learning the forms of causal relationships. Cognition, 131, 284-299.

Ma, L. L., & Ganea, P. A. (2010). Dealing with conflicting information:Young children's reliance on what they see versus what they are told. Developmental Science, 13, 151-160.

McCormack, T., Frosch, C., Patrick, F., & Lagnado, D. (2015). Temporal and statistical information in causal structure learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology:Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 41, 395-416.

Pasquini, E. S., Corriveau, K. H., Koenig, M. A., & Harris, P. L. (2007). Preschoolers monitor the relative accuracy of informants. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1216-1226.

Schulz, L. E., & Bonawitz, E. B. (2007). Serious fun:Preschoolers engage in more exploratory play when evidence is confounded. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1045-1050.

Schulz, L. E., Gopnik, A., & Glymour, C. (2007). Preschool children learn about causal structure from conditional interventions. Developmental Science, 10, 322-332.

Sobel, D. M., & Kushnir, T. (2013). Knowledge matters:How children evaluate the reliability of testimony as a process of rational inference. Psychological Review, 120, 779-797.

Tenney, E. R., Small, J. E., Kondrad, R. L., Jaswal, V. K., & Spellman, B. A. (2011). Accuracy, confidence, and calibration:How young children and adults assess credibility. Developmental Psychology, 47, 1065-1077.

Vulkan, N. (2000). An economist's perspective on probability matching. Journal of Economic Surveys, 14, 101-118.

Wellman, H. M. (2012). Theory of mind:Better methods, clearer findings, more development. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9, 313-330.