Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Experimental Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Danovitch, Judith

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Noles, Nicholaus

Committee Member

Noles, Nicholaus

Committee Member

DeCaro, Marci

Committee Member

Bufferd, Sara

Committee Member

Vanderbilt, Kimberly

Author's Keywords

child development; accuracy; expertise; knowledge judgements; explanations


Children prefer to trust people with expertise and people who are accurate. Because experts make mistakes and give incorrect information (e.g., predictions and diagnoses), this dissertation explores children’s judgments of knowledge for experts who provide inaccurate information. Across two studies, 6- to 9-years-olds (N = 160) were introduced to two experts in different domains (doctor and mechanic) and rated how much each expert knows about their relevant domain. Then, over four consecutive trials, participants heard one expert give inaccurate answers to easy questions in their domain. After each trial, children explained why they believed the expert gave inaccurate answers and rated both experts’ level of knowledge. Finally, children chose which expert knew more about the two relevant domains of expertise. Study 2 included an additional measure of how children rely on accuracy and expertise when given a task that required expertise (i.e., assigning questions to be answered by the experts or themselves about bodies and cars). Across both studies, children decreased their knowledge ratings for the inaccurate expert as they heard more inaccurate answers. In Study 1, children’s explanations predicted their knowledge ratings, such that children who described the expert as having a negative trait (e.g., not being smart) gave lower knowledge ratings and children who endorsed the expert’s inaccurate statements gave higher knowledge ratings. In the additional question delegation measure in Study 2, children assigned relevant questions in the inaccurate expert’s domain to the inaccurate expert and relevant questions in the control expert’s domain to the control expert, and rarely assigned questions to themselves. When justifying why they delegated questions to the inaccurate expert, children referred to the inaccurate expert’s relevant expertise. Also, they indicated that the other expert and/or they did not have relevant knowledge. Together, these studies demonstrate that children weigh accuracy and expertise differently depending on the task at hand. They also provide evidence for individual differences in whether children prioritize an informant’s accuracy or expertise. These findings suggest that caregivers should discuss circumstances where experts could be inaccurate and encourage children to listen and think critically about the answers people provide.