Children affirm the possibility of improbable events when they are similar to a known event

AbstractChildren often judge that strange and improbable events are impossible, whereas adults usually accept the possibility of such events. This shows that children’s reasoning about possibility is immature, but it remains unclear how children reason about the possibility of improbable events. We explore whether children use a novel event’s similarity to a known event to infer whether the event can happen. We told 4- to 6-year-olds (N=120) either ordinary or improbable facts and then asked if a related improbable event was also possible. The facts contained no causal information that could be extended to the occurrence of a similar event. Children who heard improbable facts more often agreed that similar improbable events were possible than children who heard ordinary facts. This suggests that the mere knowledge that an event can happen influences children’s beliefs about the possibility of other unfamiliar-but-similar events.

Return to previous page