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Cogn Sci. 2016 Apr;40(3):697-722. doi: 10.1111/cogs.12245. Epub 2015 Apr 27.

Young Children's Help-Seeking as Active Information Gathering.

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Department of Human Development, Cornell University.


Young children's social learning is a topic of great interest. Here, we examined preschoolers' (M = 52.44 months, SD = 9.7 months) help-seeking as a social information gathering activity that may optimize and support children's opportunities for learning. In a toy assembly task, we assessed each child's competency at assembling toys and the difficulty of each step of the task. We hypothesized that children's help-seeking would be a function of both initial competency and task difficulty. The results confirmed this prediction; all children were more likely to seek assistance on difficult steps and less competent children sought assistance more often. Moreover, the magnitude of the help-seeking requests (from asking for verbal confirmation to asking the adult to take over the task) similarly related to both competency and difficulty. The results provide support for viewing children's help-seeking as an information gathering activity, indicating that preschoolers flexibly adjust the level and amount of assistance to optimize their opportunities for learning.


Active learning; Help-seeking; Information gathering; Preschoolers; Scaffolding; Social learning

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