When does the majority rule? Preschoolers’ trust in majority informants varies by task domain


In order to learn about the world, young children rely on information provided by social partners. Past research has shown children consider a variety of factors when learning from others, including consensus. Corriveau, Fusaro, and Harris (2009) found that in an object labeling task, children trust responses that receive majority support, and they concluded that children prefer members of a majority as social informants. However, it is possible that children prefer majority members only in domains that rely strongly on socially constructed norms, such as object labeling, where non-social information is unavailable. We formalized this prediction using a rational model of learning from testimony across tasks, and compared our model’s predictions to children’s responses in object labeling and causal learning tasks. We find that in a causal learning task, a domain that relies less on socially constructed norms, children rely more on their personal observations than informant testimony.

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