Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Previously Published Works bannerUC Berkeley

Learning to Learn From Stories: Children's Developing Sensitivity to the Causal Structure of Fictional Worlds


Fiction presents a unique challenge to the developing child, in that children must learn when to generalize information from stories to the real world. This study examines how children acquire causal knowledge from storybooks, and whether children are sensitive to how closely the fictional world resembles reality. Preschoolers (N = 108) listened to stories in which a novel causal relation was embedded within realistic or fantastical contexts. Results indicate that by at least 3 years of age, children are sensitive to the underlying causal structure of the story: Children are more likely to generalize content if the fictional world is similar to reality. Additionally, children become better able at discriminating between realistic and fantastical story contexts between 3 and 5 years of age. © 2014 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View