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How to Trick a Four-Year-Old

A study by Patricia Brosseau-Liard, Tracy Cassels, and Susan Birch of Concordia University and the University of British Columbia explores how children aged 4 and 5 differ in how they approach authority. The study found that four-year-olds were more likely to trust an adult providing information if they sounded confident and authoritative. When confronted with such an individual, they trusted them over their past knowledge. Five-year-olds, by comparison, were able to take their past knowledge and use it to see through the tone. Even with the confident and authoritative tone, five-year-olds would choose the less confident adult if what they said lined up with the child’s knowledge.


The children were shown clips of two adults. The adults would make some statement such as “whales live in the water,” marked with confidence or hesitancy markers. “Whales live in the water, I guess” versus “whales live on the ground!” While four-year-olds would be fooled by the tone, five-year-olds could distinguish properly.


Several other tests were run including tests using animals that the children had not been exposed to, such as lanternfish and pygmy sloths. It is fascinating to see the development of children. The entire article can be read online.


If you live in Carmel, Noblesville, Indianapolis, Zionsville, Fishers, or Westfield and have a child or young adolescent who needs help addressing irrational thoughts, improving coping skills, learning life skills, increasing self-acceptance, or addressing behavioral issues consider calling and scheduling an appointment with Touchstone Counseling.

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