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The Development of Uncertainty Monitoring in Early Childhood


  • This material is based upon work supported, in part, by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS 0843428) and a UC Davis intramural grant 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. The authors thank Janeth Nunez del Prado for her assistance with data collection. Kristen Lyons is now at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota.

concerning this article should be addressed to Kristen E. Lyons, University of Minnesota, Institute of Child Development, 51 E. River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study examined the development of uncertainty monitoring in early childhood. Specifically, this study tested the prediction that preschoolers can reflect on their sense of certainty about the likely accuracy of their decisions, and it examined whether this ability differs across domains. Three-, 4-, and 5-year-olds (= 74) completed a perceptual identification and a lexical identification task in which they reported whether they were certain or uncertain about their answers. Results showed that even 3-year-olds provided confidence judgments that discriminated accurate from inaccurate responses, but this discrimination increased with age. Furthermore, results suggest that 3-year-olds primarily rely on response latency to assess certainty, whereas older preschoolers do not. Overall, these findings suggest that uncertainty monitoring emerges and develops during the preschool years.