Beyond Semantic Accuracy: Preschoolers Evaluate a Speaker’s Reasons


  • I would like to thank Elizabeth Blaschak, Kat Frederick, and Cheryl Browne for help with stimuli preparation and data collection. I thank Cathy Echols, Jacqui Woolley, and Paul Harris for helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

concerning this article should be addressed to Melissa A. Koenig, 174 ICD, 51 East River Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55455. Electronic mail may be sent to


Children’s sensitivity to the quality of epistemic reasons and their selective trust in the more reasonable of 2 informants was investigated in 2 experiments. Three-, 4-, and 5-year-old children (N = 90) were presented with speakers who stated different kinds of evidence for what they believed. Experiment 1 showed that children of all age groups appropriately judged looking, reliable testimony, and inference as better reasons for belief than pretense, guessing, and desiring. Experiment 2 showed that 3- and 4-year-old children preferred to seek and accept new information from a speaker who was previously judged to use the “best” way of thinking. The findings demonstrate that children distinguish certain good from bad reasons and prefer to learn from those who showcased good reasoning in the past.