ERIC Number: ED338045
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1990-Jul
Flexibility in Semantic Representations: Children's Ability To Switch among Different Interpretations of "Big" and "Little."
Ebeling, Karen S.; Gelman, Susan A.
Two studies investigated how flexible children are when asked to switch from one semantic interpretation to another. Three distinctly different standards for the adjectives "big" and "little" were examined: normative, perceptual, and functional. The first study looked at whether some standards are harder than others to represent and whether switching from one standard to another is hard. Subjects were 3-year-olds (n=72). They were shown one or two objects and asked if they were big or little, with questions framed according to the standard being investigated, either perceptual or functional. For each kind of standard, the children were also asked to switch from one standard to another, switch from one context to another using the same standard, or not switch standards. The second study investigated whether it was more difficult to switch from a normative to perceptual standard or the reverse, or whether they held the same difficulty. There were three main findings: (1) young children showed great flexibility in switching among standards; (2) performance decreased when children had to switch standards; and (3) children showed a firm preferred ordering of interpretations, with perceptual standards used most easily, then normative, and finally functional. (MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: In: Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, Number Twenty-nine. California, Stanford University, 1990. p38-45.