Do children rely on appearance when establishing trust?

Adults and children are able to make face-to-trait inferences about trustworthiness, dominance, and competence. That is, they associate specific facial features (like a strong jaw line) with particular traits (like dominance). Theoretically, these inferences allow both children and adults to use facial features to make predictions about how someone will behave in the future. However, in our series of studies we are asking whether children can use others' previous behaviors to make predictions about how they might look. This work helps us to better understand whether young children make "snap judgements" about others' trustworthiness.  

What helps children understand deception? 

Young children often have difficulty correctly interpreting (i.e., ignoring) deceptive information from other people. Indeed, children tend to trust what they've been told, even if they have evidence that the information is incorrect or that the person sharing the information is deceptive. In this line of research we are asking whether there are certain circumstances or cognitive abilities that may help young children ignore deceptive information. This work helps us to better understand why some children are better able to ignore deceptive information than others. 

Do children's personalities affect how they establish trust? 

Hostile attribution bias is the tendency for someone to interpret the behaviors of others as having malicious or aggressive intentions behind them. Previous research with adults and older children has demonstrated links between this bias and other aspects of behavior and cognition (e.g. acting aggressively). Relatively little work has explored whether preschoolers demonstrate a similar bias, and if so, whether this bias affects how they evaluate others as sources of information. In this series of studies we are exploring whether children who demonstrate a hostile attribution bias are less likely to forgive individuals who have provided unreliable information in the past. This works helps us to understand how individual differences in children's dispositions affect how they come to trust others.