Success does not imply knowledge: Preschoolers believe that accurate predictions reveal prior knowledge, but accurate observations do not

AbstractMuch research has investigated how children track and reason about accuracy when deciding who to trust. The majority of this work assumes a static link between accuracy and knowledge; that is, children are expected to attribute greater knowledge to accurate agents. But while accuracy often reveals knowledge, the two are not deterministically related. Ignorant agents can be accurate (for example, one could take a lucky guess), and knowledgeable agents can be inaccurate (for example, one could accidentally err). Given this, how do children reason about the relation between knowledge and accuracy? Across three experiments, we show that four- and five-year-olds are sensitive to the distinction between knowledge and accuracy. Specifically, children judge that an agent who accurately predicts an outcome is knowledgeable, but an agent who merely observes and then accurately describes the same outcome is not. Our findings show that when children gauge agents’ knowledge, they do not rely on accuracy alone; they infer knowledge only when an agent is right in the right kind of way.

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