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Voice-activated devices such as Google Home, Siri, and Alexa are in many homes and children are interacting with these devices. It is unclear if they treat these devices the way they treat human informants. Children prefer human informants that are reliable and familiar. This study examined whether children believe voice-activated devices provide accurate information. Participants included 40 4- and 5-year-olds and 40 7- and 8-year-olds. Children were introduced to two informants: the experimenter’s good friend and the experimenter’s new device. Children heard questions about personal information (e.g., the experimenter’s favorite color), facts that do not change (e.g., the color of a kiwano fruit), and timely information (e.g., which state had the most rain yesterday). After the informant provided an answer, the child indicated whether the answer was correct. Older children were significantly more likely to trust the device’s stable fact responses and the human informant’s personal fact responses. Surprisingly, younger children did not show greater trust for either informant for stable facts, but were significantly more likely to trust personal facts given by the device. These findings suggest that younger children have greater difficulty than older children trusting the appropriate informant, and thus need more guidance from adults to understand and use voice-activated devices.

Publication Date

Spring 2020


Children, Trust, Voice-Activated Devices, Human Informants


Developmental Psychology

Phone a Friend or Ask Alexa? Children’s Trust in Voice-Activated Devices