Cognitive Science 42 (2):491-523 (2018)

Research on the division of cognitive labor has found that adults and children as young as age 5 are able to find appropriate experts for different causal systems. However, little work has explored how children and adults decide when to seek out expert knowledge in the first place. We propose that children and adults rely on “mechanism metadata,” information about mechanism information. We argue that mechanism metadata is relatively consistent across individuals exposed to similar amounts of mechanism information, and it is applicable to a wide range of causal systems. In three experiments, we show that adults and children as young as 5 years of age have a consistent sense of the causal complexity of different causal systems, and that this sense of complexity is related to decisions about when to seek expert knowledge, but over development there is a shift in focus from procedural information to internal mechanism information.
Keywords Causal mechanisms  Cognitive Development  Deference  Explanation
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DOI 10.1111/cogs.12509
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