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Toddlers do not preferentially transmit generalizable information to others

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
Article numbere13479
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/07/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Developmental Science
Issue number4
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date7/02/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


AbstractChildren actively and selectively transmit information to others based on the type of information and the context during learning. Four‐ to 7‐year‐old children preferentially transmit generalizable information in teaching‐like contexts. Although 2‐year‐old children are able to distinguish between generalizable and non‐generalizable information, it is not known whether they likewise transmit generalizable information selectively. We designed a behavioral study to address this question. Two‐year‐old children were presented with three novel boxes, identical except for their color. In each box, one of two equally salient actions led to a generalizable outcome (e.g., playing a [different] tune in each box), whereas the other led to a non‐generalizable outcome (e.g., turning on a light, vibrating the box, or making a noise). In the discovery phase, children had a chance to discover the functions of each box presented one‐by‐one. Then, in the exploration phase, they were given the opportunity to independently explore all three boxes presented together. Finally, in the transmission phase, an ignorant recipient entered the room and asked the child to show them how these toys work. We measured whether children preferentially transmitted either generalizable or non‐generalizable information when they were asked to demonstrate the function of the toys to a naïve adult. We found that children did not display any preference for transmitting generalizable information. These findings are discussed with respect to toddlers’ selectivity in transmitting information but also the development of sensitivity to information generalizability.Research Highlight Young children transmit information to others and do so with some degree of selectivity to a variety of factors. Generalizability is an important factor affecting information transmission, and older children tend to associate generalizable information with teaching‐like interactions. We tested whether toddlers selectively transmitted it to others over non‐generalizable information. We found that toddlers do not show a preference to transmit generalizable over non‐generalizable information.