Knowing what he could have shown: The role of alternatives in children's evaluation of under-informative teachers


What underlies young children's failure in evaluating under-informative teachers? We explore the hypothesis that children have difficulty representing relevant alternatives; knowing what the teacher could have done. Children rated two teachers who demonstrated toys to a na\"{i}ve learner. One group first observed a fully informative teacher and then an under-informative teacher, while the other group saw the reverse order. Six- and seven-year-olds successfully rated the under-informative teacher lower than the fully-informative teacher regardless of the order (Exp.1). However, four- and five-year-olds showed this pattern only when they saw the fully informative teacher first (Exp.2). Given a binary choice after seeing both teachers, four-year-olds showed a preference for the fully informative teacher (Exp.3). We discuss these results in light of recent literature on children's understanding of pragmatic violations in linguistic communication; the contrast between the fully informative vs. under-informative teachers might help children understand what the teacher could have shown.

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