Getting information from other people: Who do children turn to?

Michelle M. Chouinard and Kristi Imberi-Olivares

in Access to Language and Cognitive Development

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199592722
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731488 | DOI:
Getting information from other people: Who do children turn to?

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This chapter reviews research revealing important aspects of how children learn from conversations. Like adults, when children are trying to find out how a novel mechanism works (for example, how a clock functions), they appear to start by asking descriptive questions such as about the names of the salient parts of the mechanisms. They then move on to ask questions that are more focused on causal processes that concern the functional relations among different parts. The chapter provides evidence on how children extract information from adults by relying on their perceptions of the expertise and the familiarity and motivations of potential informants. It shows that children are just as likely to ask information-seeking questions to a stranger and a sibling as to their parents, and that strangers are actually slightly more likely to answer those questions. It discusses classic findings on the relation between learning and depth of processing, and extends this literature by presenting new findings showing that children are significantly more likely to remember information when they have had to ask for it than when they are given the information unrequested.

Keywords: learning; conversations; information-seeking questions; perceptions; information processing

Chapter.  6242 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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