The pragmatic role of trust in young children’s interpretation of unfamiliar signals

Autoři: Olivier Mascaro aff001;  Dan Sperber aff002
Působiště autorů: Institute for Cognitive Sciences, CNRS UMR5304/Lyon 1 University, Bron, France aff001;  Social Mind Center, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(10)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0224648


What role does children’s trust in communication play in their acquisition of new meanings? To answer, we report two experimental studies (N = 81) testing how three- to four-year-olds interpret the meaning of a novel communicative device when it is used by a malevolent and potentially deceptive informant. Children participated in a hiding game in which they had to find a reward hidden in one of two boxes. In the initial phase of the experiments, a malevolent informant always indicated the location of the empty box using a novel communicative device, either a marker (Study 1), or an arrow (Study 2). During that phase, 3- and 4-year-olds learned to avoid the box indicated by the novel communicative device. In the second phase of the test, the malevolent informant was replaced by a benevolent one. Nevertheless, children did not change their search strategy, and they kept avoiding the box tagged by the novel communicative device as often as when it had been produced by the malevolent informant. These results suggest that during the initial phase, children (i) did not consider the possibility that the malevolent informant might intend to deceive them, and (ii) did not ignore the unfamiliar communicative signal or treat it as irrelevant. Instead, children relied on the unfamiliar communicative signal to locate the empty box’s location. These results suggest that children’s avoidance of the location indicated by an unfamiliar signal is not unambiguous evidence for distrust of such signal. We argue that children’s trust in ostensive communication is likely to extend to unfamiliar communicative means, and that this presumption of trustworthiness plays a central role in children’s acquisition of new meanings.

Klíčová slova:

Behavior – Communication equipment – Communications – Frogs – Children – Learning – Social communication – Speech signal processing


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