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Do young children preferentially trust gossip or firsthand observation in choosing a collaborative partner?

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Social Development

Published online on


From early on in ontogeny, young children hear things being said about particular individuals. Here we investigate the ways in which testimony with social content, that is, gossip, influences children's decision‐making. We explored whether five‐year‐old (N = 72) and seven‐year‐old (N = 72) children trust gossip or firsthand observation in a partner choice setting. Seven‐year‐old children preferentially trusted what they had seen firsthand over gossip; five‐year‐old children, in contrast, did not differentiate between these two sources of information. However, five‐year‐old children (but not seven‐year‐olds) generally gave negative information more weight, that is, they showed a “negativity bias.” These results suggest that at around school age, young children become more “epistemically vigilant” about gossip.