Date on Senior Honors Thesis


Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Keywords

Social cognition; Epistemic trust; Social learning; Helpfulness; Evaluating informants


How do children consider helpfulness, specifically effort and utility, when evaluating potential informants? We tested preschoolers on three conditions, asking them to choose between a character high in both effort and utility and a character who acted with either 1) low effort and high utility, 2) high effort and low utility, or 3) low effort and no utility (removed from social contexts). The opposing characters provided conflicting information when labeling novel objects, and participants were asked which label they endorsed. They were then asked to choose which character was the more helpful, which worked harder, and which was nicer. We found trends toward endorsing words from the helpful over no social context character. Participants chose the helpful character as more helpful and hardworking compared to the low utility character, and as working harder compared to the no social context character. These trends indicate that children focus on utility and social contribution over effort when evaluating the helpfulness of a potential informant.