A mind of its own: How a puppet’s reliability affects children’s beliefs about the puppeteer’s knowledge
This study assessed whether 4-year-old children think a puppet has a mind separate from that of the puppeteer. 64 children, 48-60 months, watched a puppet (operated by a visible person) and another person label 3 familiar objects. One person consistently labeled correctly and the other, incorrectly. Across children, we counterbalanced which of the labelers operated the puppet and whether the puppet was correct or incorrect. In the experimental (but not the control) group, the puppet then was passed to the other person (e.g., from the mis-labeler to the correct labeler, or vice versa). Then the puppeteer/puppet and the other person labeled a novel object with two different novel names. We asked children for the name of the novel object, examining whether the children used the puppet's or the person's label. We also asked follow-up questions to probe children's reasoning. The results illuminate preschoolers' understanding of puppets and how a puppet’s prior behavior may influence children’s beliefs about a puppeteer.