Preschoolers' Evaluations of Ignorant Agents are Situation-Specific

AbstractPreschool children’s preference for, knowledgeable agents over ignorant and inaccurate agents (Sabbagh & Baldwin, 2001; Koenig & Harris, 2005; Rakoczy et al., 2015), is generally interpreted as epistemic vigilance. However, Kushnir and Koenig (2017) recently found that without a contrasting accurate agent, preschoolers will learn new information from an agent who professed ignorance, but not from one who was inaccurate. Employing a two-speaker design contrasting an agent who professed ignorance about familiar object labels with a speaker whose knowledge state was not revealed, we found that preschoolers (N = 41; 3.50-4.89 years, M = 4.08 years) avoided requesting and endorsing novel information from the ignorant agent in the same domain as her previous ignorance (i.e., labels). In different domains, however, (i.e. novel function learning, resource sharing, etc.) they were at chance in choosing the ignorant agent. This suggests that preschoolers’ view of ignorance is situational, rather than uniformly negative.

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