Pedagogical Cues Influence Children's Inductive Inference and Exploratory Play


A hallmark of human cognition is the ability to learn from others—both via language and via non-linguistic cues. Children are sensitive to actions done for their benefit, treating pedagogical acts as conveying important information (Csibra & Gergely, 2009). The current research tapped children’s exploration to investigate whether seeing a causal property either demonstrated pedagogically or produced accidentally influences children’s expectations about that property’s extension to other kind members. Experiment 1 found striking differences in 3- and 4-year-olds’ exploration when a property was demonstrated intentionally rather than accidentally. Experiment 2 replicated this effect while also investigating possible influences of the emotional valence of causal events and the salience of property information. These experiments reveal that preschoolers use pedagogical cues to make inferences about generalizability and guide their exploration.

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