Cover: Trusting What You’re Told: How Children Learn from Others, from Harvard University PressCover: Trusting What You’re Told in PAPERBACK

Trusting What You’re Told

How Children Learn from Others

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Product Details


$19.50 • £15.95 • €17.50

ISBN 9780674503830

Publication Date: 03/23/2015

Academic Trade

424 pages

5-1/16 x 7-7/8 inches

3 halftones, 3 line illustrations, 19 graphs

Belknap Press


In Trusting What You’re Told, Harris argues that the longstanding idea that kids should be self-learners who gain knowledge mainly from their own explorations and observations is flawed. In the book’s introduction, Harris notes that we adults could barely get through the day without information from other people. It’s the same with kids, he says… Harris’ book explores lots of interesting ideas, including the impact of a mother’s level of education on a child’s inquisitiveness and why kids trust what they learn from their parents.—Julie Rasicot, Education Week blog

Harris provides an important contribution by emphasizing that children, contrary to the view of thinkers like Piaget, do not develop only into a fixed rationality. Rather, children, from a very young age, are able to negotiate the empirical world alongside the supernatural, as well as develop through the tension created by attempting to balance truth and fantasy. Harris emphasizes the notion of testimony as a means to demonstrate the agency of the child and as a central tool through which a child is able to engage in thinking about the world.—J. A. Helfer, Choice

The importance of learning from others was oddly neglected by too many of the twentieth-century pioneers of child psychology. In Trusting What You’re Told, Paul Harris reviews his and his colleagues’ beautiful work demonstrating just how entwined culture is with children’s development.—Peter J. Richerson, author of Not by Genes Alone

Paul Harris has given us an intricate and beautifully detailed picture of children as budding anthropologists. They don’t just learn about the world on their own, but rather from and through ‘informants’ who provide testimony—which naturally raises issues of trustworthiness. This is a really terrific book from a researcher acutely attuned to children’s inner lives.—Michael Tomasello, author of Why We Cooperate

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