How you learned matters: The process by which others learn informs young children’s decisions about whom to ask for help

AbstractPrior work suggests that young children consider others' knowledge and expertise to decide from whom to learn. Do children also consider how others came to know what they know? Here we investigate young children's sensitivity to the process by which people have learned. In Exp.1, 3- to 6-year-olds preferentially sought help from an active learner, who had figured out how to solve a problem by herself, over learners who had learned through passive observation or direct instruction. Yet, this preference emerged only when the problem children needed to solve was related to the one the learners had previously solved (i.e., when they thought the active learner's competence would be relevant). These findings suggest children inferred competence from the process of active learning, but considered this competence to be constrained to a particular task rather than more broadly generalizeable. The results of Exp.2 (3- to 7-year-olds) suggest that younger children's learner preference might be driven by more superficial cues related to active learning such as being alone and that a more abstract understanding of the process of active learning might develop with age.


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