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3 - The Point, the Shrug, and the Question of Clarification

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2020

Lucas Payne Butler
University of Maryland, College Park
Samuel Ronfard
University of Toronto Mississauga
Kathleen H. Corriveau
Boston University
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Early studies of children’s questions focused primarily on the epistemic motive that prompted them. Increasingly, however, investigators have recognized that questions are situated within a dialogue in which the child’s interlocutor and the answers that the interlocutor supplies are likely to determine what children learn from their questions and the broader stance that children take to curiosity–driven conversations. Moreover, children do not ask questions with one single motive. Many of their questions are aimed at gathering information about the world but some are aimed at securing help, or permission or clarification of what has just been said. Even in the second year of life toddlers use nonverbal gestures such as pointing to seek input from a partner. Such gestures appear to be interrogative in the sense that information provided in their wake is especially well remembered. Toddlers also signal their ignorance again nonverbally via shrug gestures but increasingly via explicit admissions of ignorance: “I don’t know.” Finally, despite the alleged lack of metacognitive awareness among young children, they are prompt in seeking to resolve comprehension glitches by asking clarification questions.

The Questioning Child
Insights from Psychology and Education
, pp. 29 - 50
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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