Evaluating and Approaching a Strange Animal: Children's Trust in Informant Testimony


  • This research was supported in part by NICHD Grant R03HD065931-01 to the first author and by an Undergraduate Research Award from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to the second author. The authors thank Jason Rouse for his assistance with . We are grateful to the parents, children, and teachers who made this research possible.


This study examined 3- to 7-year-old children's reliance on informant testimony to learn about a novel animal. Sixty participants were given positive or negative information about an Australian marsupial from an informant described as a maternal figure or a zookeeper. Children were asked which informant was correct and were invited to touch the animal, which was a stuffed toy hidden in a crate. Overall, younger children endorsed the zookeeper's testimony about the animal, but touched the animal more readily when the maternal figure provided positive information. Older children endorsed the informant who provided positive information, but showed some sensitivity to zookeeper expertise. Age differences were obtained in the association between participant characteristics and informant selection and animal approach behavior.