Children’s spontaneous inferences about time and causality in narrative

AbstractHow do children understand the temporal and causal relations among events in a narrative? We explored the roles of (a) connectives like before and because, (b) chronology, and (c) world knowledge in supporting children's inferences about causal and temporal relations in narrative. We told 3- to 7-year-old children stories containing two events. We then unexpectedly asked them to retell the stories from memory, to test what they had encoded. Children attended to and recalled the causal and temporal relations from the stories. They were more likely to modify their retellings when the events in the story were not described chronologically, or when the causal relations were inconsistent with children’s knowledge of the real world. These tendencies interacted with the specific connectives in the story and their positioning. These findings indicate that children as young as 3 spontaneously integrate their knowledge of connectives, sentence structure, and the world when processing narratives.

Return to previous page