March 21st, 2011

Researcher Hopes to Protect Kids from Deceptive Ads

UT Dallas News

A UT Dallas researcher is examining how children evaluate information to solve problems and learn how to think critically, with the aim of combating misleading advertising aimed at young people.

Children’s lack of cynicism is refreshing to adults. But to navigate through life successfully, individuals must know how to differentiate between reliable and doubtful sources of information.

Dr. Candice Mills, assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and a researcher in the Center for Children and Families, is seeking preschool and elementary-age children to participate in two separate studies.

The first study, sponsored by a $153,000 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, is studying ways to help preschool-age children determine what sources are most helpful in answering their questions. Mills and her team also are looking at other aspects of problem solving, such as the ability to ask good questions and use new information.

A group of 4- and 5-year-olds will be asked to solve simple problems with the help of outside sources with different levels of reliability: a knowledgeable source, an “ignorant” source (who admits to not knowing the answers) and an “inaccurate” source (who provides wrong answers). The experiment will observe how children learn about the knowledge status of each source: through experience, explicit labeling, observation or the combination of explicit labeling and observation.

“Given the difficulty that children and adults often have in problem solving, it is important to better understand the rudimentary development of problem-solving skills,” Mills said. “The results from this research will inform scientists and practitioners in education and child development regarding early developments in children’s problem-solving abilities. Determining some of the factors that may help children recognize that a source should be discounted should be useful in developing programs to combat misleading ads.”

Read more: http://www.utdallas.edu/news/2011/3/21-9231_Researcher-Hopes-to-Protect-Kids-from-Deceptive-Ad_article.html

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