Preschoolers’ ability to navigate communicative interactions in guiding their inductive inferences


Evaluating whether information is generalizable, essential knowledge about a novel category is a critical component of conceptual development. In previous work (Butler & Markman, 2012) 4-year-old children were able to use their understanding of whether information was explicitly communicated for their benefit to guide such reasoning, while 3-year-olds were not. In two experiments, we further investigate this finding. Four-year-olds were adept at navigating pedagogical interactions, judiciously identifying which specific actions in an ongoing interaction were meant as communicative demonstrations for their benefit, while 3-year-olds did not distinguish between the manners of demonstration even in a simpler context. Taken together, these experiments illustrate that this powerful learning mechanism for facilitating children’s conceptual development is under construction during the preschool years.

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