British Journal of Developmental Psychology

Skip to Search

Skip to Navigation

Volume 36 Issue 4 (November 2018), Pages i-iv, 521-678

Consider the source: Children link the accuracy of text‐based sources to the accuracy of the author (pages 634-651)

The present research investigated whether young children link the accuracy of text‐based information to the accuracy of its author. Across three experiments, three‐ and four‐year‐olds (= 231) received information about object labels from accurate and inaccurate sources who provided information both in text and verbally. Of primary interest was whether young children would selectively rely on information provided by more accurate sources, regardless of the form in which the information was communicated. Experiment 1 tested children's trust in text‐based information (e.g., books) written by an author with a history of either accurate or inaccurate verbal testimony and found that children showed greater trust in books written by accurate authors. Experiment 2 replicated the findings of Experiment 1 and extended them by showing that children's selective trust in more accurate text‐based sources was not dependent on experience trusting or distrusting the author's verbal testimony. Experiment 3 investigated this understanding in reverse by testing children's trust in verbal testimony communicated by an individual who had authored either accurate or inaccurate text‐based information. Experiment 3 revealed that children showed greater trust in individuals who had authored accurate rather than inaccurate books. Experiment 3 also demonstrated that children used the accuracy of text‐based sources to make inferences about the mental states of the authors. Taken together, these results suggest children do indeed link the reliability of text‐based sources to the reliability of the author.

Existing knowledge

  • Children use sources’ prior accuracy to predict future accuracy in face‐to‐face verbal interactions.
  • Children who are just learning to read show increased trust in text bases (vs. verbal) information.
  • It is unknown whether children consider authors’ prior accuracy when judging the accuracy of text‐based information.

New knowledge added by this article

  • Preschool children track sources’ accuracy across communication mediums – from verbal to text‐based modalities and vice versa.
  • Children link the reliability of text‐based sources to the reliability of the author.

Add This link

Bookmark and Share>