Which is important for preschoolers' production and repair of statements: what the listener knows or what the listener says?

Research paper by Elizabeth S ES Nilsen, Leilani L Mangal

Indexed on: 14 Dec '11Published on: 14 Dec '11Published in: Journal of child language


Three- and four-year-olds participated in a referential communication task wherein they requested stickers from a knowledgeable or ignorant adult to complete a card. Following inadequate initial requests children were provided with three different feedback types: goal substitution (i.e. an incorrect sticker was provided), explicit statement of misunderstanding ('I don't know which one you mean'), and vague feedback ('Huh?'). Preschoolers' initial statements revealed sensitivity to the listener's perspective: more descriptors were provided when the listener did not have visual access to the card. Although listener's knowledge did not affect children's repair statements following feedback, the feedback type did: goal substitution elicited more repairs that included new descriptors, whereas vague responses elicited more repetition of initial requests than other feedback types. Children's age and verbal skills were related to the specific repair strategies used. Results demonstrate that preschoolers' use of cues from a conversational partner depends on the type of communicative task.