Young children show more vigilance against
individuals with poor knowledge than those with
Kimberly E. Vanderbilt
Gail D. Heyman
California State University San Marcos, San
Marcos, CA, USA
University of California, San Diego, CA, USA
University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, USA
Kimberly E. Vanderbilt, Department of
Psychology, California State University San
Marcos, 333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Rd. San
Marcos, CA 92096.
In three experiments, the present research investigated whether
children's distrust of unreliable informants was influenced by the
type of mental state causing the informants' unreliability. Children
(total N = 167) played a searching game with an informant who
repeatedly provided incorrect information either due to poor knowl-
edge or to intentional deception resulting from antisocial motives.
Results of Experiment 1 showed that children initially distrusted
the ignorant informant more than the deceptive informant, but that
levels of distrust increased and converged after children received
feedback on their responses. Experiment 2 replicated the findings
of Experiment 1 and also extended them by showing that children
consistently distrusted the ignorant informant more than the decep-
tive informant in the absence of feedback. Experiment 3 helped rule
out the possibility that results could be explained by the wording of
informant descriptions in Experiments 1 and 2. Taken together, our
results contribute to a small body of findings suggesting that young
children have the capacity to use mental state information to make
selective trust judgments and suggest that young children show
more vigilance against individuals with poor knowledge than those
with antisocial motives.
• How does the type of mental state causing unreliability (either
ignorance or antisocial motives) influence children's vigilance
against unreliable sources?
• A direct comparison showed that children (3 ‐ 4 years old)
distrusted ignorant sources more than antisocial sources.
• Children use mental state information to make selective trust
epistemic vigilance, mental states, selective trust, trust
Received: 27 July 2016 Revised: 17 November 2017 Accepted: 18 November 2017
Inf Child Dev. 2018;27:e2078.
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