The object of my desire: Five-year-olds rapidly reason about a speaker's desire during referential communication.

Abstract

Two experiments examined whether 5-year-olds draw inferences about desire outcomes that constrain their online interpretation of an utterance. Children were informed of a speaker's positive (Experiment 1) or negative (Experiment 2) desire to receive a specific toy as a gift before hearing a referentially ambiguous statement ("That's my present") spoken with either a happy or sad voice. After hearing the speaker express a positive desire, children (N=24) showed an implicit (i.e., eye gaze) and explicit ability to predict reference to the desired object when the speaker sounded happy, but they showed only implicit consideration of the alternate object when the speaker sounded sad. After hearing the speaker express a negative desire, children (N=24) used only happy prosodic cues to predict the intended referent of the statement. Taken together, the findings indicate that the efficiency with which 5-year-olds integrate desire reasoning with language processing depends on the emotional valence of the speaker's voice but not on the type of desire representations (i.e., positive vs. negative) that children must reason about online.

DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2017.05.003

Cite this paper

@article{Juan2017TheOO, title={The object of my desire: Five-year-olds rapidly reason about a speaker's desire during referential communication.}, author={Valerie San Juan and Craig Chambers and Jared M J Berman and Chelsea Humphry and Susan A. Graham}, journal={Journal of experimental child psychology}, year={2017}, volume={162}, pages={101-119} }