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J Exp Child Psychol. 2009 Jan;102(1):114-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2008.07.009. Epub 2008 Sep 21.

Children do not follow the rule "ignorance means getting it wrong".

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ont. N2L 3G1, Canada. friedman@uwaterloo.ca


Two experiments tested whether 4- and 5-year-olds follow the rule "ignorance means you get it wrong." Following this rule should lead children to infer that a character who is ignorant about some situation will also have a false belief about it. This rule should sometimes lead children into error because ignorance does not imply false belief. In Experiment 1, children and adults were told about a girl who is looking for her dog but does not know which of two boxes it is under. Most children predicted that the girl would look in the box with the dog and not in the empty box; adults chose both boxes equally. Experiment 2 used a similar story but varied whether the girl wants to approach or avoid her dog. Again, most children predicted that the girl would succeed. These findings suggest that children do not follow the rule "ignorance means you get it wrong."

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