A new study titled Who Do I Believe?: Children’s Epistemic Trust in Internet, Teacher and Peer Informants recently published in the Journal of Cognitive Development has found that while adults might be willing to take Amazon Alexa’s answers as facts, kids are a bit more skeptical (via CBC News).
The researchers asked five- to eight-year-old Chinese children questions about scientific or historical facts, such as “how many days does it take Mars to finish a single orbit?” The kids were then offered contrasting responses with the virtual assistant saying it would take 600 days for Mars to revolve around the sun, while their teacher said it would take 700 days.
Interestingly, the researchers found the kids to overwhelmingly trust the teacher over Alexa, even if the teacher was wrong:
“Kids trust their teachers because they’ve learned to trust them, whereas they’re still figuring out whether or not sources like voice assistants are trustworthy,” said Matthew Johnson, director of Media Smarts.
According to Judith Danovitch, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Louisville and one of the researchers in the Who Do I Believe? study, the disembodied nature of the internet – and voice assistants such as Alexa – can be confusing for young kids.
“Until at least age eight or so, children are largely cautious when it comes to trusting the internet over a human source,” said Danovitch. However, it seems that as they learn more about computers, their relationship with them changes.