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Using data to solve problems: Children reason flexibly in response to different kinds of evidence

Justin T A Busch, Cristine H Legare
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 2019 March 12, 183: 172-188
This study examined children's (5- to 9-year-olds, N = 363) abilities to use information seeking and explanation to solve problems using conclusive or inconclusive (i.e., consistent, inconsistent, or ambiguous) evidence. Results demonstrated that inconsistent and ambiguous evidence, not consistent evidence, motivate more requests for information than conclusive evidence. In addition, children's explanations were flexible in response to evidence; explanations based on transitive inference were more likely to be associated with an accurate conclusion than other explanation types. Children's requests for additional information in response to inconclusive evidence increased with age, as did their problem-solving accuracy. The data demonstrate that children's capacity to use information seeking and explanation develop in tandem as tools for problem solving.


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