“We already know that some preschoolers are more likely to learn from individuals with a history of making accurate claims over individuals who have been inaccurate or ignorant,” says the study’s senior author Diane Poulin-Dubois, a professor with Concordia’s Department of Psychology and researcher with the Centre for Research in Human Development.
“Kids have also been shown to prefer learning from nicer, more confident or more attractive individuals — attributes that don’t have anything to do with intelligence. We speculated that certain social-cognitive abilities might explain some of these learning differences,” she says.
To test the hypothesis, Poulin-Dubois worked with study co-author Danielle Penney and the study’s first author, Patricia Brosseau-Liard, who completed the study while she held a post-doctoral research position at Concordia. Brosseau-Liard is now on faculty at the University of Ottawa’s School of Psychology.
The three researchers took 65 children through a series of tasks that tested their ability to learn new words, as well as their “theory of mind” (ToM) — that is, the intuitive understanding of one’s own and other people’s minds or mental states.