“Is It Worth My Time and Effort?”: How Children Selectively Gather Information from Experts When Faced with Different Kinds of Costs




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Gathering good quality information is important to effective learning, but children may often need to expend time or energy (i.e., costs) in order to do so. To examine this idea, two studies looked at how children gather information from others when one source of information comes at a cost. Ninety-one 4- and 5-year-old children assigned question cards to two puppets: a doctor puppet and a car mechanic puppet. The questions were doctor-related, mechanic-related, and neutral (i.e., unrelated to either domain). Importantly, children were able to assign each question card to one of the puppets immediately, but either needed to wait 30 seconds (a timed delay; Experiment 1) or complete a tedious sorting task (an effortful delay; Experiment 2) before they could assign a question card to the other puppet. Children’s verbal intelligence and executive function were then measured through both behavioral measures and parent and teacher reports. Results showed that cost influenced how children sought information from each of the expert puppets: children chose the non-costly puppet (e.g., the mechanic when the doctor was costly) for their related domain questions and for the neutral domain questions, but chose the costly puppet either at chance (Experiment 2) or below chance (Experiment 1) for their domain-related questions. No differences in performance on the main task between the timed delay and effortful delay occurred. That said, some of the executive function measures related to children’s performance when there was a timed delay, but not an effortful delay. Overall, these results indicate that children do recognize that they should sometimes go to a costly expert, though they do not do so the majority of the time, and that inhibition skills play a role in children’s ability to appropriately gather information from the costly expert. This has implications for children’s education, and highlights that teachers and parents should be mindful of how children gather information to help them optimize their learning to be as efficient and effective as possible.



Social perception in children, Selectivity (Psychology), Expertise, Executive functions (Neuropsychology)



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