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Choose and choose again: appearance-reality errors, pragmatics and logical ability

  • Author(s): Deák, Gedeon O
  • Enright, Brian
  • et al.
Abstract

In the Appearance/Reality (AR) task some 3- and 4-year-old children make perseverative errors: they choose the same word for the appearance and the function of a deceptive object. Are these errors specific to the AR task, or signs of a general question-answering problem? Preschoolers completed five tasks: AR; simple successive forced-choice question pairs (QP); flexible naming of objects (FN); working memory (WM) span; and indeterminacy detection (ID). AR errors correlated with QP errors. Insensitivity to indeterminacy predicted perseveration in both tasks. Neither WM span nor flexible naming predicted other measures. Age predicted sensitivity to indeterminacy. These findings suggest that AR tests measure a pragmatic understanding; specifically, different questions about a topic usually call for different answers. This understanding is related to the ability to detect indeterminacy of each question in a series. AR errors are unrelated to the ability to represent an object as belonging to multiple categories, to working memory span, or to inhibiting previously activated words.

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