I Don't Want to Pick! Introspection on Uncertainty Supports Early Strategic Behavior


  • This material is based on work supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS 0843428) to Simona Ghetti. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this manuscript are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kristen E. Lyons, Department of Psychology, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Campus Box 54, P.O. Box 173362 Denver, CO 80217. Electronic mail may be sent to klyons7@msudenver.edu.


Although some evidence indicates that even very young children engage in rudimentary forms of strategic behavior, the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown. This study tested the hypothesis that uncertainty monitoring underlies such behaviors. Three-, four-, and five-year-old children (= 88) completed a perceptual discrimination task. Results indicated that children are more likely to withhold (vs. volunteer) responses on trials for which, when forced to provide an answer, they report subjective uncertainty (vs. subjective certainty). Furthermore, uncertainty monitoring positively predicted the strategic regulation of accuracy via withholding of incorrect responses, even when controlling for individual differences in inhibitory control. Overall, results suggest that children's awareness of their own knowledge states contributes to early strategic behavior.