1st Edition

Trust and Skepticism
Children's selective learning from testimony

ISBN 9781848721869
Published April 1, 2014 by Psychology Press
176 Pages

USD $54.95

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Book Description

Children learn a great deal from other people, including history, science and religion, as well as language itself. Although our informants are usually well-intentioned, they can be wrong, and sometimes people deceive deliberately.  As soon as children can learn from what others tell them, they need to be able to evaluate the likely truth of such testimony. This book is the first of its kind to provide an overview of the field of testimony research, summarizing and discussing the latest findings into how children make such evaluations – when do they trust what people tell them, and when are they skeptical?

The nine chapters are organized according to the extent to which testimony is necessary for children to learn the matter in question – from cases where children are entirely dependent on the testimony of others, to cases where testimony is merely a convenient way of learning. Chapters also consider situations where reliance on testimony can lead a child astray, and the need for children to learn to be vigilant to deception, to ask questions appropriately, and to evaluate what they are told. With an international range of contributors, and two concluding commentaries which integrate the findings within a broader perspective of research on child development, the book provides a thorough overview of this emerging sub-field.

Trust and Skepticism will be essential reading for researchers, academic teachers and advanced students working in the areas of cognitive development and language development, and will also be of great interest to educationists concerned with nursery and primary education.

Table of Contents

Introduction Shiri Einav and Elizabeth J. Robinson  1. Characterizing children’s responsiveness to cues of speaker trustworthiness: two proposals Melissa Koenig and Elizabeth Stephens  2. Learning from testimony about religion and science Paul L. Harris and Kathleen H. Corriveau  3. Does understanding about knowledge and belief influence children’s trust in testimony? Elizabeth J. Robinson, Erika Nurmsoo and Shiri Einav  4. Inquiring minds: using questions to gather information from others Candice M. Mills and Asheley R. Landrum  5. Gullible’s travel: How honest and trustful children become vigilant communicators Olivier Mascaro and Olivier Morin  6. Children’s reasoning about deception: a cross-cultural perspective Gail D. Heyman  7. Cultural differences in children’s learning from others Kathleen H. Corriveau, Grace Min and Katelyn Kurkul  8. Resolving conflicts between observation and testimony: the role of inhibitory control Vikram K. Jaswal and Koraly Pérez-Edgar  9. Trust in others’ versions of experience: implications for children’s autobiographical memory Gabrielle F. Principe  10. Commentary I: Developing dimensions of deference: the cognitive and social underpinnings of trust in testimony and its development Frank Keil  11. Commentary II: ‘If you’ve seen it before, then you know’: physical evidence and children’s trust in testimony Christine Howe

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Elizabeth J. Robinson is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Warwick, UK. As well as her main research interests in developmental aspects of the transfer of knowledge between people, she has a related side interest in communication in medical settings.

Shiri Einav is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Nottingham, UK. Her research focuses on children’s developing knowledge attribution, evaluation of oral and printed sources of information, and selective learning.


"Trust has been a central issue in developmental psychology since its inception. In the past two decades, there has been explosive growth in research on the development of trust in childhood. This expertly edited book by Robinson and Einav brings together contributions from some of the key players in this growing body of research on the issue. The book provides timely reviews of evidence regarding various central issues related to the development of trust. It thus represents a milestone towards our fast growing scientific knowledge of how children learn to trust. The book covers issues concerning the development of trust broadly and from multiple perspectives. It is an essential resource for researchers and students who are interested not only in trust, but also social cognition in development." - Kang Lee, Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology, University of Toronto, Canada

"Trust and Skepticism presents a timely collection of empirical and theoretical essays on how children learn from testimony. Findings in this emerging field are critical to help us understand how humans learn. Written by experts in the field, this volume covers central topics like epistemic vigilance, trust, willingness to conform, and learning about unobservable entities in science and religion." – Helen De Cruz, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford, UK

"Trust and Skepticism succeeds in presenting a comprehensive and comprehensible collection of research into children's selective trust in testimony. The volume identifies many factors that alter a child's decision to trust testimony, and each chapter is well-reasoned and supported by a wealth of empirical research and references" - Angela D. Moore, Journal of Youth and Adolescence