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Referential Choice

There is considerable development in the preschool years in children’s ability to take into account their addressee’s point of view when choosing how to refer to something

Children sometimes refer to something in a way that is ambiguous

Point to something the other person can’t see

Refer to something with pronouns

Children are still pretty bad at this at 6-7 years of age


Theory of Mind

The ability to attribute mental states to others


Justified False Belief

The ability to recognize that others have beliefs that are different than yours but that their beliefs are justified based on their knowledge of the world


Sally-Anne Task

Sally puts her toy away and leaves. Anne moves Sally’s toy while she’s gone. Sally assumes it hasn’t been moves and looks for the toy where she put it.

Children are asked “Where do you think Sally will look for the toy?”


Simmer and Perner

Presented 3-9 year olds with Sally-Anne task

No 3 year old got it right
50% of 4 year olds got it right
86% of 6-9 year olds got it right

So the development of justified false belief is after 4

But do kids really understand the question?


Epistemic Perspective Taking

Appearance-reality distinction

What is this really really? experiment

Joke shop stuff – sponge that looks like a rock

3 year olds are bad at this
4 year olds are better


Visual Perspective Taking

The understanding of what people see or perceive, rather than what they know


Flavell’s Levels of Visual Perspective Taking

Level 1
The ability to judge what people can and cannot visually perceive

Level 2
The understanding of not just what is seen, but how it is seen


Piaget’s Egocentrism Study
(and two reasons it might not be valid)

Three mountains task
Can you tell me what I see from where I’m sitting?

Young kids don’t understand that other people’s perspectives on the world are different from their own
Children fail at this task before age 7

However, it’s possible that kids don’t have the memory to remember what they saw before
Also, this task requires them to inhibit their knowledge of what they can see


Level 1 Perspective Taking Study

Moll and Tomasello

An experimenter entered the room looking for an object.
One object was visible to both the experimenter and the child. One object was visible to the child only.

24 month olds, but not 18 months olds, handed the experimenter the occluded toy.
The kids knew the experimenter wouldn’t be looking if they could see the toy.

At two years, kids understand level 1 perspective taking.


Level 2 Perspective Taking Study

Moll and Meltzoff

Using a yellow filter that made blue objects look green.
Showed the kid how the filter worked.
Set two blue objects on the table.
Put one object behind the filter from the point of view of the experimenter.

Adult would come into the room and say “Look ta that! That one looks green to me. Can you put the green one in the bag for me?”

36 month olds were able to do this.

At 3 years, kids understand level 2 perspective taking


Kids understand that people can know things and understand things that they don’t know/see. How does this help kids in word learning?

Visual perspective taking is necessary in monitoring common ground.


The Cooperative Principle

Communication relies on communication

Hearers cooperate by working to understand what speakers are trying to say

Speakers cooperate by speaking clearly and efficiently


Grice’s Maxims

The speaker’s cooperation involves a shared commitment to a series of conversational maxims that guide how they speak

Hearers use these as the basis of inference in constructing the meaning of utterances

Maxim of Quantity
Maxim of Quality
Maxim of Relevance
Maxim of Manner


Maxim of Quantity

Don’t say too much or too little


Maxim of Quality

Be truthful; don’t say things for which you lack evidence


Maxim of Relevance

Everything you say should be relevant to the aims of the conversation


Maxim of Manner

Avoid ambiguity, wordiness, and disorder


Study on Maxim of Quantity

A child played a game with two experimenters
One was game master and would hold out objects
The object of the game is that the kid obtains the same object as the
experimenter (kid would get to put the cup in the treasure chest)

Part one
The experimenter would ask for an object with a completely
nonsensical adjective
Game master would hand over the decorated cup
Kid would have to do the same thing

Part two
The game master would hold out only one plain item and experimenter
would ask with another nonsensical adjective.
The kid would then do the same

Are kids more likely to copy the adjective when there is a situational reason
to do so? Maxim of quantity
3-year-olds copied the adjective 50% of the time - overimitation?
More likely to copy towards the end of the trial


Referential Pacts

When there are multiple ways to refer to an object, cooperative speakers
should choose only one possible term during a conversation in order to
ease processing

Hearers assume that speakers should do this - once a speaker has used a
given term they have explicitly agreed to a referential pact


3 Year Olds and Referential Pacts

Many items in shelves in a grid
Object could be referred to in multiple ways

The experimenter will ask the kids to move the objects around the grid
The experimenter would switch to calling them something else - horse or
A new experimenter would come in and call it a different name

Adults take longer to figure out what the experimenter is referring to when
they switch names, but approximately the same time with a new

Same thing seen with the kids - they take longer and often correct the experimenter

In this domain, kids seem to expect you to follow the cooperative principle