Preschoolers Sometimes Seek Help from Socially Engaged Informants over Competent Ones



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Elsevier Ltd


The current studies examine whether children can selectively seek help from more competent others to solve simple problems. Across two experiments, 4- and 5-year-old children watched two adults demonstrate using a toy: one adult appeared competent but was socially unengaged, while the other appeared incompetent but was socially engaged. Children were then able to seek help from the adults while working with their own problem-solving toys. In Experiment 1, children appeared to seek help indiscriminately between the two adults. In Experiment 2, which had a more salient competence cue, children showed a statistically significant preference for questioning the socially engaged informant. For both experiments, children were able to remember post-test which adult demonstrated which characteristic, though they did not make strong inferences regarding future behaviors. This research demonstrates that preschool-aged children sometimes prefer to seek help from socially engaged sources, even if those sources may not be competent. ©2018 Elsevier Inc.


Full text access from Treasures at UT Dallas is restricted to current UTD affiliates (use the provided Link to Article).


Cognition, Child psychology, Help-seeking behavior, Trust, Social skills


©2018 Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.