One day, Judith Danovitch overheard her son interrogating Siri on the family’s iPad.
“What color shirt am I wearing?” the then four-year-old asked.
Danovitch, a researcher at the University of Louisville, says he was testing the boundaries of Siri’s knowledge — something that, her research finds, often happens when kids get to be about that age. And the more studies she and others in the field conduct, the more robust the behavior appears.
Turns out kids overwhelmingly trust a teacher — even if the teacher is wrong. That makes sense: they know their teacher, and that teacher has developed a strong relationship with them. But the kids preferred their peers over the internet, too, even though they knew their friends had roughly the same amount of knowledge as they did.
Danovitch’s theory as to why kids behave this way is that the idea of voice assistants — and by extension, the internet — is amorphous and hard to grasp. If you’re a child who thinks there’s a tiny woman who lives in the kitchen called Alexa (as Danovitch says her son did), you’re trying to wrap your head not only around how this thing works but what its knowledge base is in the first place. Trusting another person, on the other hand, is hardwired into our brains.
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