Can't stop believing: inhibitory control and resistance to misleading testimony

Dev Sci. 2014 Nov;17(6):965-76. doi: 10.1111/desc.12187. Epub 2014 May 8.


Why are some young children consistently willing to believe what they are told even when it conflicts with first-hand experience? In this study, we investigated the possibility that this deference reflects an inability to inhibit a prepotent response. Over the course of several trials, 2.5- to 3.5-year-olds (N = 58) heard an adult contradict their report of a simple event they had both witnessed, and children were asked to resolve this discrepancy. Those who repeatedly deferred to the adult's misleading testimony had more difficulty on an inhibitory control task involving spatial conflict than those who responded more skeptically. These results suggest that responding skeptically to testimony that conflicts with first-hand experience may be challenging for some young children because it requires inhibiting a normally appropriate bias to believe testimony.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Theory of Mind
  • Trust*