Inducing Knowledgeability From Niceness: Children Use Social Features for Making Epistemic Inferences

Asheley R. Landrum, Amelia D. Pflaum, Candice M. Mills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


In many ways, evaluating informants based on their features is a problem of induction: Children rely on the assumption that observable informant characteristics (e.g., traits, behaviors, social categories) will predict unobservable characteristics (e.g., future behavior, knowledge states, intentions). Yet to make sensible inferences, children must recognize what informant features are relevant for what types of inferences. The current research investigated whether preschoolers use social features (e.g., niceness) for making epistemic inferences and, conversely, whether they use intellectual features (e.g., expertise) for making social inferences. In the study, 96 preschoolers (Mag e = 4.96 years) were asked to attribute knowledge and behaviors to a mean informant, a nice informant, and a neutral informant. Between subjects, we varied which informant had expertise. We found that when attributing knowledge, children used both features: attributing more knowledge to nicer informants, but also attributing more knowledge to an informant when he had expertise. In contrast, when making social inferences, children relied primarily on social features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-717
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Cognition and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 19 2016


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