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The importance of testimony in children’s learning

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How do children learn about the world? Classic research in cognitive development has emphasized how children learn from their own first-hand experience. Yet there are many domains of knowledge where it is difficult – if not impossible – for children to learn from direct experience, such as learning about scientific concepts and historical facts. My research program explores how preschool children determine whether or not an informant is a good source of information, as well as how children use that information to learn about the world. In this talk, I focus on individual differences in children’s selective learning from others based on environmental and cultural influences. I highlight three areas where we have found variability in selective learning: use of informant accent, deference to a consensus, and use of informant explanations. Understanding individual and group-level differences in children’s learning has far-reaching implications for both formal and informal educational settings.

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Kathleen Corriveau’s research focuses on social and cognitive development in childhood, with a specific focus on how children decide what people and what information are trustworthy sources. She is also interested in language and reading development, cross-cultural differences and the role of parenting in children’s social and emotional development.

This talk is part of the Psychology & Education series.

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