Influence of social closeness on children’s trust in testimony
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I examined whether interpersonal similarity, an indicator of social closeness, influenced children’s epistemic trust in others’ testimony. Three- to 5-year-olds met two puppet informants, one of whom matched their preferences and physical attributes. Children were encouraged to request novel objects’ names from either informant, after which both informants provided conflicting labels for the unfamiliar objects. Physical and psychological commonalities with an informant differentially guided children’s learning preferences. Children subsequently heard the two informants differ in their accuracy when labeling familiar objects. For half the children the similar informant was accurate and the dissimilar informant inaccurate. Additionally, for half the children the inaccurate informant was blindfolded. Only 5-year-olds were more forgiving of the informant’s inaccuracy when blindfolded (i.e., justified), as compared to wearing a scarf (unjustified inaccuracy), and only for the dissimilar informant. These findings suggest that children’s reasoning about an informant’s state of knowledge varies with social closeness. Implications for children’s recall, mentalistic reasoning, and forgiving of mistakes are discussed.