The kindergarten-path effect revisited: children’s use of context in processing structural ambiguities

WEIGHALL, A. R. (2007). The kindergarten-path effect revisited: children’s use of context in processing structural ambiguities. Journal of experimental child psychology, 99, p. 75.


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Research with adults has shown that ambiguous spoken sentences are resolved efficiently, exploiting multiple cues—including referential context—to select the intended meaning. Paradoxically, children appear to be insensitive to referential cues when resolving ambiguous sentences, relying instead on statistical properties intrinsic to the language such as verb biases. The possibility that children’s insensitivity to referential context may be an artifact of the experimental design used in previous work was explored with 60 4- to 11-year-olds. An act-out task was designed to discourage children from making incorrect pragmatic inferences and to prevent premature and ballistic responses by enforcing delayed actions. Performance on this task was compared directly with the standard act-out task used in previous studies. The results suggest that young children (5 years) do not use contextual information, even under conditions designed to maximize their use of such cues, but that adult-like processing is evident by approximately 8 years of age. These results support and extend previous findings by Trueswell and colleagues (Cognition (1999), Vol. 73, pp. 89–134) and are consistent with a constraint-based learning account of children’s linguistic development.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © Elsevier Inc
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Psychology Research Group
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Page Range: p. 75
Depositing User: Ann Betterton
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2009
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 13:49

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