MONDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Very young children are
extraordinarily trusting of what adults tell them, even if there is
repeated evidence to the contrary, finds a new study.
In what may be little surprise to many parents, University of
Virginia researchers found that 3-year-olds placed more trust in
information they are told than information conveyed to them without
In this study, an adult showed children a red and a yellow cup
and then hid a sticker under the red cup. Some children were told
(incorrectly) that the sticker was under the yellow cup, while
other children saw the adult place an arrow on the yellow cup
without saying anything. The children were told they could look
under one cup and keep the sticker if they found it. The experiment
was repeated eight times with pairs of different colored cups.
The children who saw the adult place the arrow on the incorrect
cup quickly learned not to trust this sign. But those who heard the
adult say the sticker was under a certain cup continued to believe
that's where they would find the sticker. Of those 16 children,
nine never once found the sticker in eight tries. (At the end of
the game, all the children were given stickers, whether they found
them or not.)
The study appears in the journal
"Children have developed a specific bias to believe what they're told. It's sort of a shortcut to keep them from having to evaluate what people say. It's useful because most of the time parents and caregivers tell children things that they believe to be true," study author Vikram K. Jaswal said in a journal news release.
For more about preschooler psychology, visit the archives of the
American Psychological Association.