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Children Selectively Trust Individuals Who Have Imitated Them


Correspondence should be addressed to Harriet Over, Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig 04103, Germany. Email:


We investigated the influence of being imitated on children's subsequent trust. Five- to six-year-olds interacted with one experimenter who mimicked their choices and another experimenter who made different choices. Children were then presented with two tests. In a preference test, the experimenters offered conflicting preferences for the contents of two opaque boxes, and children were asked to choose a box. In a factual claims test, the experimenters offered conflicting claims about the referent for a novel word, and children were asked to state which object the word referred to. Children were significantly more likely to endorse both the preferences and the factual claims of the experimenter who had mimicked them. These results demonstrate that imitation is a powerful means of social influence in development.

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