Preschoolers’ Trust in Social Consensus Varies by Context: Conventional vs. Moral Domains

Silvia Guerrero, Laura Elenbaas, Ileana Enesco, Melanie Killen


Do young children give priority to following personal beliefs over the testimony of a majority group of adults that approves of social exclusion? Following current research on children’s preference for non-dissenters when learning the names for novel objects, this study investigated children’s preference for consensus opinion in two contexts: Interracial social exclusion among peers and novel object labeling. The goal was to examine the generalizability of preference for the opinion of non-dissenters in a socially relevant context. This study was conducted with 90 preschool children from the Spanish ethnic majority group. The findings revealed that participants sided with the consensus significantly less often in the social exclusion context than in the novel object labeling context. Moreover, young children did not defer to the opinion of a numerical consensus in the socially meaningful context when a group condoned the exclusion of a peer from a group activity, even when the peer was from an outgroup social category. Instead, participants agreed with a dissenter who claimed that it was not okay to exclude someone, despite the opposite opinion of a numerical majority. These results provide new information regarding children’s social knowledge development.


social development; cognitive development; moral judgments; social consensus; testimony

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