Developing expectations regarding the boundaries of expertise

Asheley R. Landrum, Candice M. Mills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Three experiments examined elementary school-aged children's and adults' expectations regarding what specialists (i.e., those with narrow domains of expertise) and generalists (i.e., those with broad domains of expertise) are likely to know. Experiment 1 demonstrated developmental differences in the ability to differentiate between generalists and specialists, with younger children believing generalists have more specific trivia knowledge than older children and adults believed. Experiment 2 demonstrated that children and adults expected generalists to have more underlying principles knowledge than specific trivia knowledge about unfamiliar animals. However, they believed that generalists would have more of both types of knowledge than themselves. Finally, Experiment 3 demonstrated that children and adults recognized that underlying principles knowledge can be generalized between topics closely related to the specialists' domains of expertise. However, they did not recognize when this knowledge was generalizable to topics slightly less related, expecting generalists to know only as much as they would. Importantly, this work contributes to the literature by showing how much of and what kinds of knowledge different types of experts are expected to have. In sum, this work provides insight into some of the ways children's notions of expertise change over development. The current research demonstrates that between the ages of 5 and 10, children are developing the ability to recognize how experts' knowledge is likely to be limited. That said, even older children at times struggle to determine the breadth of an experts' knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-231
Number of pages17
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Children
  • Development
  • Epistemic trust
  • Evaluating expertise
  • Theory of mind


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