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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Backchannel Behavior in Child-Caregiver Zoom-Mediated Conversations


An important step in children's socio-cognitive development is learning how to engage in coordinated conversations. This requires not only becoming competent speakers but also active listeners. This paper studies children's use of backchannel signaling (e.g., "yeah!" or a head nod) when in the listener's role during conversations with their caregivers via video call. While previous work had found backchannel to be still immature in middle childhood (i.e., 6 to 11 years of age), our use of both more natural/spontaneous conversational settings and more adequate controls allowed us to reveal that school-age children are strikingly close to adult-level mastery in many measures of backchanneling. The broader impact of this paper is to highlight the crucial role of social context in evaluating children's conversational abilities.

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