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The Development of Children’s Ability to Fill the Gaps in Their Knowledge by Consulting Experts


concerning this article should be addressed to Naomi R. Aguiar, Department of Psychology, 1227 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403. Electronic mail may be sent to


This research investigated children’s ability to recognize gaps in their knowledge and seek missing information from appropriate informants. In Experiment 1, forty-five 4- and 5-year-olds were adept in assigning questions from 3 domains (medicine, firefighting, and farming) to corresponding experts (doctor, firefighter, or farmer). However, when given the options of answering the same questions themselves or assigning them to an expert (Experiment 2), only 6-year-olds were consistently able to recognize when they did not know answers and then assign test questions correctly. Four- and 5-year-olds tended to overestimate their own knowledge or assign questions to the wrong expert. This result was replicated in Experiment 3, in which 5-year-olds were given incentives for correct answers.