How children revise their beliefs in light of reasons

Hanna Schleihauf, Esther Herrmann, Julia Fischer, Jan M. Engelmann

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Here we investigate how the ability to respond appropriately to reasons provided in discourse develops in young children. In Study 1 (N=58 from Germany, 26 girls), 4- and 5-, but not 3-year old children, differentiated good from bad reasons. In Study 2 (N=131 from Germany, 64 girls), 4- and 5-year-old children considered both the strength of evidence for their initial belief and the quality of socially provided reasons for an alternative view when deciding whether to change their minds. Study 3 (N=80 from the United States, 42 girls, pre-registered) shows that 4- and 5-year old children also consider meta-reasons (reasons about reasons) in their belief revision. These results suggest that by age 4, children possess key critical thinking capacities for participating in public discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1072-1089
JournalChild Development
Issue number4
Early online date5 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022


  • reasons
  • belief revision
  • reason-responsiveness
  • epistemic rationality


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