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Studies for Children

Submitted by pexman on Mon, 10/22/2007 - 4:18pm
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Recent and Ongoing Studies:

How do children understand negation?

In this study our aim is to investigate how children understand negation (e.g. "not"). We assess children's understanding of negation using a game we call the shopping task. Children sit at a table with a miniature shopping cart in front of them and plastic food items (e.g. apple and orange) placed to either side. The child is told they are grocery shopping with Pete the puppet and that he will indicate which of the two items he wants. Sometimes Pete communicates his want by saying what he does want (e.g., "The next item is an orange"), and sometimes by saying what he doesn't want (e.g., "The next item is not an apple"). The child is asked to use this information to select the correct item and place it into the shopping cart. This study will shed light on how and when children gain the ability to comprehend negation. The entire study consists of a single session lasting less than an hour.

Do school-aged children understand simultaneous conflicting desires?

The purpose of this project is to examine children's understanding of simultaneous conflicting mental states (e.g., being "of two minds"; the simultaneous feelings of both wanting and not wanting the same thing). We assess children's understanding of mental states by telling them short stories about the desires of various cartoon-like characters (e.g., "this is Suzie. Suzie wants to eat a cookie"). Then, each child will be presented with three thought bubbles and will be asked to choose the one that best shows "what Suzie is thinking". This research will help us to understand when and how children begin to appreciate that a person can feel different ways about the same thing. The entire study consists of a single session lasting approximately 1 hour. 


When do children learn to understand opposites?

We are interested in how children learn the relationships between words, in particular, the relationships of opposition and synonymy. In the previous research, children's understanding of opposition has been examined with tasks that have high verbal demands (require that the children know and use lots of words). We have developed a comprehension task that does not require a verbal response from the child and thus, could be easier for children to complete and may better reflect what they really understand. In our new task the child is first shown three pictures of animals. Then the experimenter puts one of the pictures into a box. The child responds by selecting one of the other two pictures and putting that in the box too. This study will help us to examine when children understand the complex concept of opposition. 


Which cues are important to children's understanding of sarcasm?

The purpose of this study is to determine which cues help children to determine whether a speaker is being literal or sarcastic. To address this, children meet individually with an experimenter to watch a series of puppet shows. Important information about the puppets is built into each puppet show script. After each show, the experimenter asks the child a series of questions. For example, in one story the puppets Will and Jenn are snowboarding, and Will says "Nice jump, Jenn" after Jenn falls flat on her face. After this show the child is asked, "Did will think Jenn made a good jump or a bad jump?" A question like this allows us to see if children understand that a speaker could say one thing and believe something else. Participation in this study involves a 1.5 hour visit to our lab. 







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