Young children show representational flexibility when interpreting drawings

Allen, Melissa Lynn and Nurmsoo, Erika and Freeman, Norman (2016) Young children show representational flexibility when interpreting drawings. Cognition, 147. pp. 21-28. ISSN 0010-0277

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Abstract

Drawings can be ambiguous and represent more than one entity. In three experiments, we examine whether young children show representational flexibility by allowing one picture to be called by a second name. We also evaluate the hypothesis that children who are representationally flexible see the artist’s intention as binding, rather than changeable. In Experiment 1, an artist declared what she intended to draw (e.g. a balloon) but then produced an ambiguous drawing. Children were asked whether the drawings could be interpreted differently (e.g. ‘could this be a lollipop?) in the presence of a perceptually similar or dissimilar distractor (e.g., lollipop or snake). Six-year-olds accepted two labels for drawings in both conditions, but four-year-olds only did so in the dissimilar condition. Experiment 2 probed each possible interpretation more deeply by asking property questions (e.g., does it float?, does it taste good?). Preschoolers who understood that the ambiguous drawing could be given two interpretations nevertheless mostly endorsed only properties associated with the prior intent. Experiment 3 provided converging evidence that 4-year-olds were representationally flexible using a paradigm that did not rely upon modal questioning. Taken together, our results indicate that even 4 year olds understand that pictures may denote more than one referent, they still think of the symbol as consistent with the artist’s original intention.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Cognition
Additional Information:
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Cognition. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Cognition, 147, 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2015.11.003
Uncontrolled Keywords:
/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1200/1203
Subjects:
ID Code:
76568
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
20 Nov 2015 10:20
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
03 Dec 2020 02:43