Children's Dynamic Use of Face- and Behavior-Based Cues in an Economic Trust Game

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Who do children trust? We investigated the extent to which children use face-based versus behavior-based cues when deciding whom to trust in a multiturn economic trust game. Children's (N = 42; aged 8 to 10 years; 31 females; predominantly White) trust decisions were informed by an interaction between face-based and behavior-based cues to trustworthiness, similarly to those of adults (N = 41; aged 17 to 48 years; 23 females; predominantly White). Facial trustworthiness guided children's investment decisions initially, such that they invested highly with trustworthy-looking partners and less with untrustworthy-looking partners. However, by the end of the trust game, after children had experienced game partners' fair or unfair return behavior, they overcame this bias and instead used partners' previous behavior to guide their trust decisions. Using partners' return behavior to guide decisions was the most rational strategy, because partners' facial trustworthiness was not an accurate cue to their actual trustworthiness. This dynamic use of different cues to trustworthiness suggests sophisticated levels of social cognition in children, which may reflect the social importance of trust impressions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2275-2286
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2022


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