In a new study, a research team found evidence that indicates children are likely to be susceptible to social influence when they reach the age 12.
Findings of the study, which involved 155 children between the ages of 6 and 14 (some of whom were acoustic), were detailed in a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It is understood that humans are generally vulnerable to social influence, for example, people may believe something just because another person told them it was true. Or, people may be influenced by information they received from others to do a task a certain way, even if the information is clearly wrong.
In the new approach, the researchers looked for ways to investigate more about the age at which children begin to become susceptible to social influence.
The experiments involved engaging each study participants in game in which they acted to pilot a spaceship. A session of the game included maneuvering black holes which required a child to turn cylinders with black and white dots on them. However, for knowing which way to turn the cylinder, the child pilot must know spinning direction of the black holes. In addition, to increase difficulty level of the game, the participants had to decipher optical illusions.
Before playing the game, each participant was assigned an advisor who offered advice during the game, such as which direction the black holes were turning.
Unknown to the child, the advisor would provide correct or good advice and sometimes they would not. Most interestingly, the participants could also see for themselves which way to turn the cylinder.
After concluding the game, the researchers examined which participants followed the advisors’ advice and which did not. Children age 12 and above were reported to be most susceptible to the advisors’ advice even when they could see or know it is a wrong advice. Such influence was also observed in their decision-making when deciding whether to follow a wrong advice or not. On the other hand, children below age 12 tended to ignore the advice, regardless of the advisor’s age. Further, autistic children are relatively less susceptible to such type of social influence, irrespective of their age as well as the age of the advisor.