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Young children's expectation of competence in word learning

  • GIL DIESENDRUCK (a1) and GINNAT SHEMER (a1)

Abstract

The study investigates a social–pragmatic expectation that may motivate children to search their environment when asked for the referent of a novel label. In one experimental phase, the experimenter presented 40 two-year-olds a bucket containing a novel object and another visible object – either familiar or novel. The experimenter either asked children for the referent of a novel label, or a non-specific question. In a second experimental phase, all children saw a bucket containing a novel object, and two visible objects – one familiar and one novel. We found that, in both phases, children tended to bypass the visible novel object, preferring instead to search inside the bucket for the referent of a novel label. These findings are consistent with an expectation – dubbed the EXPECTATION OF COMPETENCE – that if an adult asks a child for the referent of a name, it is because the adult likely believes that the child knows that name, and thus the child can expect to be capable of finding its referent.

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Corresponding author

Department of Psychology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel. e-mail: dieseng@mail.biu.ac.il

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We would like to thank the teachers, parents, and children from the Witzo-Raanana (Keren Hayesod) and Witzo-Kfar Saba (Kaplan) daycares for participating in the study. The paper is based on a master's thesis conducted by the second author.

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Young children's expectation of competence in word learning

  • GIL DIESENDRUCK (a1) and GINNAT SHEMER (a1)

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