Preschoolers' understanding of graded preferences

Jane Hu, Christopher G. Lucas, Thomas L. Griffiths, Fei Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


To navigate the social world, children must learn about others' preferences. Though people can use emotional and verbal cues to express their preferences, these cues are often unavailable or unreliable. Previous research has found that preschoolers and toddlers use statistical information to infer the existence of a preference. However, in the real world, preferences are not binary; they can also be graded. In two experiments, we find that preschoolers use statistical information about an agent's choices to infer the graded strengths of preferences. From observing an agent's choices, preschoolers inferred that objects the agent chose less consistently were less preferred than objects the agent chose more consistently. Additionally, preschoolers' responses indicated that preschoolers make more sophisticated transitive inferences than previously attributed to this age group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-102
Number of pages10
JournalCognitive Development
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


  • Cognitive development
  • Preferences
  • Social cognition
  • Statistical inference
  • Transitive inference


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