Escape From Metaignorance: How Children Develop an Understanding of Their Own Lack of Knowledge

Authors


  • This study is part of two research projects financed by the European and Austrian Science Funds (ESF/FWF Project I93-G15 “Metacognition of Perspective Differences” and FWF Project V00-122 “How Can We Change the Way We Think?”). We express our gratitude to management, staff, and children of the following kindergartens and after-school care centers for their friendly cooperation: Kindergarten Leonfeldnerstraße, Kindergarten Sattledt, Kindergarten Dornacherstraße, Kindergarten Johann-Wilhelm-Klein-Straße, Kindergarten Minnesängerplatz, Kindergarten Commendastraße, Hort Weißkirchen (after-school care center), Hort Linz-Solarcity (after-school care center), and Hort Haid (after-school care center).

concerning this article should be addressed to Michael Rohwer, Department of Psychology, University of Salzburg, Hellbrunnerstraße 34, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria. Electronic mail may be sent to michael.rohwer@sbg.ac.at.

Abstract

Previous research yielded conflicting results about when children can accurately assess their epistemic states in different hiding tasks. In Experiment 1, ninety-two 3- to 7-year-olds were either shown which object was hidden inside a box, were totally ignorant about what it could be, or were presented with two objects one of which was being put inside (partial exposure). Even 3-year-olds could assess their epistemic states in the total ignorance and the complete knowledge task. However, only children older than 5 could assess their ignorance in the partial exposure task. In Experiment 2 with one hundred and one 3- to 7-year-olds, similar results were found for children under 5 years even when more objects were shown in partial exposure tasks. Implications for children’s developing theory of knowledge are discussed.

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