Preschoolers Evaluate Information about Word Meaning

AbstractWe used a between-subjects selective trust paradigm to investigate whether 3-year-olds (N=28) and 5-year-olds (N=28) evaluate the quality of informants’ definitions for familiar and unfamiliar words. 3-year-olds did not choose the informative definer (silly=goofy) over the circular definer (silly=silly) for familiar or unfamiliar words. In contrast, 5-year-olds endorsed the informative definer for familiar (M=.71, t(12)=2.38, p=.04) and unfamiliar (M=.82, t(14)=3.41, p=.004) words. Additionally, 5-year-olds in the unfamiliar word condition chose to learn new information from the informative definer, such as asking about novel words (p<. 001) and novel object functions (p<.001). The unfamiliar word condition may have elicited better performance than the familiar word condition because the contrast between the two informants was more obvious. We are currently investigating whether 3- and 5-year-olds prefer an informant who uses familiar words to define novel words (meager=small) to one that uses other novel words (meager=paltry).

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