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Do as I say, not as I do: children's use of speaker behavior and testimony in their judgments to trust

Grant number: 13/11050-9
Support type:Scholarships abroad - Research
Effective date (Start): August 15, 2013
Effective date (End): February 14, 2014
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Psychology - Human Development Psychology
Principal Investigator:Débora de Hollanda Souza
Grantee:Débora de Hollanda Souza
Host: Melissa Ann Koenig
Home Institution: Centro de Educação e Ciências Humanas (CECH). Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCAR). São Carlos , SP, Brazil
Local de pesquisa : University of Minnesota (U of M), United States  

Abstract

Children learn about the world and about how the world functions not only from direct experience but also from other people's testimony. Recent research on selective trust has demonstrated that they are not naïve consumers of information. For example, there is already evidence that even 3- and 4- year-old children prefer to learn something new from a person who consistently provides accurate information than from someone who frequently offers inaccurate information. Moreover, they prefer to learn from someone who is an expert on the subject being learned, someone who appears confident in his own testimony, or yet someone who appears to be intelligent, honest and kind. One important aspect of the development of selective trust, however, remains unexplored. Do children take into consideration evidence of correspondence or inconsistency between what speakers say (e.g., "You should never lie!") and what they do when deciding whom to trust? Brazil may be a particularly interesting country to be investigated because, as researchers from many different fields have suggested, an intrinsic aspect of Brazilian culture is the so called "jeitinho brasileiro" or a tendency to seed effective ways to break social norms (i.e., without punishment) in order to obtain personal gain. This cultural experience may have effects on the development of selective trust in Brazilian children. The first study in Brazil investigating the development of selective trust, supported by FAPESP, has been conducted by the proponent of this project in collaboration with Dr. Melissa Koenig, associate professor and researcher at the Institute of Child Development (ICD) at the University of Minnesota and a pioneer in this research field. The present proposal is aimed at funding this proponent during her visit to the University of Minnesota, in particular, to perform research activities in Dr. Koenig's lab for a period of 6 months. The following activities are planned: a) conduct a study investigating whether US preschool children take into consideration inconsistencies between a speaker's behavior and his/her testimony (e.g., "Do as I say, not as I do!") to make decisions about whom to trust in a learning context; b) work on the design and procedures of the same study to be conducted with Brazilian children, upon the proponent's return to his/ her institution; c) write up manuscripts in collaboration with Dr. Koenig to be submitted to well indexed journals in the Developmental Psychology area; d) contact with other researchers at ICD, one of the most renowned research centers in child development in the world. The six-months of visit to Dr. Koenig's lab will allow the proponent, therefore, to pursue continued international collaboration in the form of the first part of a broader innovative transcultural project that is aimed at comparing data with US and Brazilian children on children's use of speaker's behavior and testimony on their judgments of trust. Additionally, this visit can contribute to the advancement of knowledge on sociocognitive development and finally, it can create an unique opportunity for international exchange and career advancement that brings benefits not only to the proponent, but also to the graduate program to which she is affiliated and, in a broader sense, to the advancement of research in child development in Brazil. (AU)