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

Buffered, Sara

Committee Member

Myers, Lauren

Author's Keywords

child development; technology; trust in technology; selective trust; children and Google search


Children rely on information from other sources to think and learn about the world around them. As the world around them digitizes, their options for where to seek new information have expanded to include technological sources like Google Search. This dissertation examines what factors impact children’s trust in search engines, particularly Google. In the first set of studies, 4- to 8-year old children were asked whether technological informants and a teacher could answer stable and changing questions, and which informant would have the better answer. With age, children endorsed the Google search engine at higher rates and the teacher at lower rates. In addition, children’s perceptions of informant familiarity play a role in these judgments. Children endorsed Google and the Internet at higher rates than they endorsed a teacher or an unfamiliar search engine. The next set of studies expands upon these findings by examining children’s intuitions with an older sample (7- to 10-year old children) and including past, present, and future event questions. With age, children’s endorsements of Google increased and their endorsements of the teacher decreased for current event questions (i.e., questions about events happening today), but stayed stable for questions about the past (i.e., events that happened yesterday). These findings were replicated even when children were told about events happening “right now” instead of “today” and related to children’s attitudes about the Internet at large. Across these four studies, children’s intuitions about search engines changed with development, including the kinds of cues children pay attention to in order to make decisions about which informants to trust.