Children adapt their questions to achieve efficient search

Azzurra Ruggeri, Tania Lombrozo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


One way to learn about the world is by asking questions. We investigate how younger children (7- to 8-year-olds), older children (9- to 11-year-olds), and young adults (17- to 18-year-olds) ask questions to identify the cause of an event. We find a developmental shift in children's reliance on hypothesis-scanning questions (which test hypotheses directly) versus constraint-seeking questions (which reduce the space of hypotheses), but also that all age groups ask more constraint-seeking questions when hypothesis-scanning questions are least likely to pay off: When the solution is one among equally likely alternatives (Study 1) or when the problem is difficult (Studies 1 and 2). These findings are the first to demonstrate that even young children dynamically adapt their strategies for inquiry to increase the efficiency of information search.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-216
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Causal inference
  • Hypothesis generation
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Information search


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