Thinking for themselves?: the effect of informant independence on children’s endorsement of testimony from a consensus

Einav, Shiri (2017) Thinking for themselves?: the effect of informant independence on children’s endorsement of testimony from a consensus. Social Development, 27 (1). pp. 73-86. ISSN 1467-9507

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Testimony agreement across a number of people can be a reassuring sign of a claim’s reliability. However, reliability may be undermined if informants do not respond independently. In this case, social consensus may be a result of indiscriminate copying or conformity and does not necessarily reflect shared knowledge or opinion. We examined children’s emerging sensitivity to consensus independence by testing whether it affected their judgements in a social learning context. Children ages 5, 6 and 8-9 years (N = 92), and 20 adults for comparison, received conflicting testimony about an unfamiliar country from two consensual groups of informants: An independent group who responded privately and a non-independent group who had access to each other’s answers. We found increasing levels of trust in independent consensus with age. Adults and 8-9 year-olds preferred to accept the claims of the independent consensus, whereas 5-year-olds favored the claims of the non-independent consensus and 6-year-olds were mixed. Although previous work has shown that children trust a consensus over a lone dissenter as young as 2 years, the developmental shift in this study indicates that children’s reasoning about the nature of consensus and what makes it reliable continues to develop throughout middle childhood.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Einav S. Thinking for themselves? The effect of informant independence on children's endorsement of testimony from a consensus. Soc. Dev. 2017;00:1–14, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Keywords: testimony; selective trust; consensus; conformity; knowledge
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Science > School of Psychology
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Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2017 09:33
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 18:30

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