Reframing Children's Judgments of Consensus Reliability as a Process of Information Aggregation

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Consensus is a compelling cue to the truth value of a given claim, but certain consensus patterns provide stronger evidence than others. This dissertation examines the developmental trajectory of children’s reasoning about the epistemic value of diverse perspectives for consensus’ reliability. One-hundred forty-four children between the ages of 7 and 9, as well as 48 adults, were introduced to a novel planet and alien groups that live there. Tasked with learning the “right things” about why various natural phenomena occur on this planet, participants were asked which one of two consensus groups, each of whom collectively thought something different, was the “better” group to ask. Participants rated their relative preference for one consensus group over another using a 6-point scale and were asked to explain their reasoning. These findings provide initial evidence that qualitative changes in children’s ability to consider how dependencies can lead to redundant information parallel the developmental shift in children’s appreciation for interpretive diversity in middle childhood.