Young children use statistical evidence to infer the informativeness of praise

AbstractPraise is not only rewarding but also informative. It allows us to learn about our skills and competence even when we are uncertain or unable to judge for ourselves. Not all praise is equally meaningful, however: Praise from someone who praises indiscriminately is less informative than from someone who praises selectively. Here we ask whether young children infer the informativeness of others’ praise based on the statistical dependence between praise and the quality of work. Exp. 1 shows that adults and 4-5 year-olds were more likely to trust praise from a teacher whose previous praise covaried with the quality of work (i.e., selective praise) than praise from a teacher who indiscriminately praised independent of the quality of work (i.e., overpraise). Exp. 2 addressed the possibility that participants simply prefer a teacher who praises less often. Even for young children, praise is more than something nice. Rather, they can track the informativeness of others’ evaluative feedback and use it to learn about the quality of their own work.

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