Get access

Children’s attention to sample composition in learning, teaching and discovery


Marjorie Rhodes, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 2422 East Hall, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1043, USA; e-mail:


Two studies compared children’s attention to sample composition – whether a sample provides a diverse representation of a category of interest – during teacher-led and learner-driven learning contexts. In Study 1 (n = 48), 5-year-olds attended to sample composition to make inferences about biological properties only when samples were presented by a knowledgeable teacher. In contrast, adults attended to sample composition in both teacher-led and learner-driven contexts. In Study 2 (n = 51), 6-year-olds chose to create diverse samples to teach information about biological kinds to another child, but not to discover new information for themselves, whereas adults chose to create diverse samples for both teaching and information discovery. Results suggest that how children approach the interpretation and selection of evidence varies depending on whether learning occurs in a pedagogical or a non-pedagogical context.