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

Vikram K. Jaswal, Koraly Pérez-Edgar, Robyn L. Kondrad, Carolyn M. Palmquist, Caitlin A. Cole, Claire E. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


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. Some young children consistently believe what they are told even when it conflicts with something they have seen. We show that these 'deferential' children have more difficulty inhibiting a dominant response than 'skeptical' children who favor perceptual evidence. We suggest that not believing testimony can be challenging because it requires inhibiting a normally adaptive bias to believe information other people provide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)965-976
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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