Weighing the evidence: how observational evidence and bias influence children's belief in a novel fantastical entity

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University of Alabama Libraries

Research has demonstrated that children make judgements about the world based on information learned from others and through their own observations, and are also influenced by their biases. However, oftentimes the information provided by these three factors directly conflict. The present research sought to examine how children weigh information based on these three factors when making reality status judgments about a novel fantastical being, and whether their strategies develop with age. Children ages 4-7 were randomly assigned to one of four conditions in which they were asked to determine if novel entities, who grant wishes, were real or pretend. They witnessed three wishes, which were either granted 0%, 33%, 67% of 100% of the time (between subjects condition). Children’s belief in the entity was assessed before and after wishing. Results demonstrated that age and the number of fulfilled wishes (condition) influenced children’s belief in a fantastical being. Older children were better than younger children at monitoring the outcomes of wishes and basing their belief off of this evidence. Additionally, children’s Fantasy/Reality Bias served as a moderating variable. These findings indicate that although children consider evidence when making reality status judgments, their biases continue to influence their judgments, and older children are better at overcoming these biases.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Psychology, Early childhood education