To learn about the world around them, children often face a daunting three-part task: how to determine who will be able to provide them with the answers to their questions, how to use questions as a tool to acquire information from those sources, and how to utilize the information they have received for problem solving. For any given problem, when children succeed at each part of this task, they appropriately evaluate the information they encounter. In contrast, when they falter on any aspect of this task, their learning may be stymied. The proposed research examines the link between these three skills. Specifically, this research examines how the ease of distinguishing between different potential sources of information influences who children question (AIM 1) as well as what kinds of questions they ask and how they learn from the answers to their questions (AIM 2). Four- and 5-year-olds will be asked to solve simple problems with the help of outside sources with different levels of knowledge: a knowledgeable source, an """"""""ignorant"""""""" source (who admits to not knowing the answers) and an """"""""inaccurate"""""""" source (who provides inaccurate answers). The experiment manipulates how children learn about the knowledge status of each source: through experience, explicit labeling, observation, or the combination of explicit labeling and observation. Several factors are predicted to increase the ease of distinguishing between sources: age, cues to each source's knowledge status provided by the way the sources answer questions, and cues to each source's knowledge status provided by others. It is expected that the less cognitive resources children need to expend in order to determine the knowledge status of the sources, the better they will be at directing questions to the most knowledgeable source, asking effective questions, and using the information obtained for problem solving. Given the difficulty that children and adults often have in problem solving, it is important to better understand the rudimentary development of problem solving skills. The results from this research will inform scientists and practitioners in education and child development regarding early developments in children's problem solving abilities. In addition, determining some of the factors that may help children recognize that a source should be discounted should be useful in developing programs to combat misleading advertising directed towards young children. Exploratory analyses examining how individual difference measures relate to each subcomponent skill will provide additional insight into developmental changes in the problem solving process as well as provide ideas for targeted interventions. Finally, these results will provide cross-sectional data that will be used to prepare an R01 grant proposing to conduct longitudinal research that will clarify how each of these subcomponents in problem solving changes over time. Such studies will be important for building a more comprehensive theory regarding the development of problem solving abilities.
Children are inundated with information from many sources, and it is important for them to be able to determine how to obtain accurate information to solve the problems they face. The proposed research examines how the ease of distinguishing between different potential sources of information influences who children question as well as what kinds of questions they ask and how they learn from the answers to their questions. By better understanding the rudiments of problem solving abilities, programs can be designed to encourage better problem solving skills and to combat misleading advertising directed towards young children.
|Mills, Candice M; Landrum, Asheley R (2016) Learning Who Knows What: Children Adjust Their Inquiry to Gather Information from Others. Front Psychol 7:951|
|Mills, Candice M (2013) Knowing when to doubt: developing a critical stance when learning from others. Dev Psychol 49:404-18|