The power of well-connected arguments: Early sensitivity to the connective because.
2012, Bernard, Stephane, Mercier, Hugo, Clément, Fabrice
Connectives, such as because, are routinely used by parents when addressing their children, yet we do not know to what extent children are sensitive to their use. Given children's early developing abilities to evaluate testimony and produce arguments containing connectives, it was hypothesized that young children would show an appropriate reaction to the presence of connectives. Three experiments were conducted to test this hypothesis. In each, two informants gave contradicting statements regarding the location of an object and justified their positions by using a similar argument. Only one of the informants used the connective because to link his argument to the statement. In each experiment, the 3-year-olds performed at chance in selecting choices containing the connective because, but the 4- and 5-year-olds performed above chance. Moreover, in Experiments 2 and 3, the 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, and adults performed significantly better than the 3-year-olds. These findings show that 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, and adults are sensitive to the presence of connectives. An interpretation of the difference in performance between the 3-year-olds and the 4- and 5-year-olds in terms of metarepresentational skills is suggested.
The medium helps the message: Early sensitivity to auditory fluency in children's endorsement of statements
2014-12-4, Bernard, Stephane, Proust, Joëlle, Clément, Fabrice
Recently, a growing number of studies have investigated the cues used by children to selectively accept testimony. In parallel, several studies with adults have shown that the fluency with which information is provided influences message evaluation: adults evaluate fluent information as more credible than dysfluent information. It is therefore plausible that the fluency of a message could also influence children’s endorsement of statements. Three experiments were designed to test this hypothesis with 3- to 5-year-olds where the auditory fluency of a message was manipulated by adding different levels of noise to recorded statements. The results show that 4 and 5-year-old children, but not 3-year-olds, are more likely to endorse a fluent statement than a dysfluent one. The present study constitutes a first attempt to show that fluency, i.e., ease of processing, is recruited as a cue to guide epistemic decision in children. An interpretation of the age difference based on the way cues are processed by younger children is suggested.
Social cognition is not reducible to theory of mind: When children use deontic rules to predict the behaviour of others
2011, Clément, Fabrice, Bernard, Stephane, Kaufmann, Laurence
The objective of this paper is to discuss whether children have a capacity for deontic reasoning that is irreducible to mentalizing. The results of two experiments point to the existence of such non-mentalistic understanding and prediction of the behaviour of others. In Study 1, young children (3- and 4-year-olds) were told different versions of classic false-belief tasks, some of which were modified by the introduction of a rule or a regularity. When the task (a standard change of location task) included a rule, the performance of 3-year-olds, who fail traditional false-belief tasks, significantly improved. In Study 2, 3-year-olds proved to be able to infer a rule from a social situation and to use it in order to predict the behaviour of a character involved in a modified version of the false-belief task. These studies suggest that rules play a central role in the social cognition of young children and that deontic reasoning might not necessarily involve mind reading.
Procedural Metacognition and False Belief Understanding in 3- to 5-year-old Children
2015-10-30, Bernard, Stephane, Proust, Joelle, Clément, Fabrice
Some studies, so far limited in number, suggest the existence of procedural metacognition in young children, that is, the practical capacity to monitor and control one’s own cognitive activity in a given task. The link between procedural metacognition and false belief understanding is currently under theoretical discussion. If data with primates seem to indicate that procedural metacognition and false belief understanding are not related, no study in developmental psychology has investigated this relation in young children. The present paper aims, first, to supplement the findings concerning young children’s abilities to monitor and control their uncertainty (procedural metacognition) and, second, to explore the relation between procedural metacognition and false belief understanding. To examine this, 82 3- to 5-year-old children were presented with an opt-out task and with 3 false belief tasks. Results show that children can rely on procedural metacognition to evaluate their perceptual access to information, and that success in false belief tasks does not seem related to success in the task we used to evaluate procedural metacognition. These results are coherent with a procedural view of metacognition, and are discussed in the light of recent data from primatology and developmental psychology.
Early sensitivity to arguments: How preschoolers weight circular arguments
2014, Mercier, Hugo, Bernard, Stephane, Clément, Fabrice
Observational studies suggest that children as young as 2 years can evaluate some of the arguments people offer them. However, experimental studies of sensitivity to different arguments have not yet targeted children younger than 5 years. The current study aimed at bridging this gap by testing the ability of preschoolers (3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds) to weight arguments. To do so, it focused on a common type of fallacy?circularity?to which 5-year-olds are sensitive. The current experiment asked children?and, as a group control, adults?to choose between the contradictory opinions of two speakers. In the first task, participants of all age groups favored an opinion supported by a strong argument over an opinion supported by a circular argument. In the second task, 4- and 5-year-olds, but not 3-year-olds or adults, favored the opinion supported by a circular argument over an unsupported opinion. We suggest that the results of these tasks in 3- to 5-year-olds are best interpreted as resulting from the combination of two mechanisms: (a) basic skills of argument evaluations that process the content of arguments, allowing children as young as 3 years to favor non-circular arguments over circular arguments, and (b) a heuristic that leads older children (4- and 5-year-olds) to give some weight to circular arguments, possibly by interpreting these arguments as a cue to speaker dominance.