Children's (and Adults') Production Adjustments to Generic and Particular Listener Needs

Cognitive Science 43 (10):e12790 (2019)
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Adults design utterances to match listeners' informational needs by making both “generic” adjustments (e.g., mentioning atypical more often than typical information) and “particular” adjustments tailored to their specific interlocutor (e.g., including things that their addressee cannot see). For children, however, relevant evidence is mixed. Three experiments investigated how generic and particular factors affect children's production. In Experiment 1, 4‐ to 5‐year‐old children and adults described typical and atypical instrument events to a silent listener who could either see or not see the events. In later extensions, participants described the same events to either a silent (Experiment 2) or an interactive (Experiment 3) addressee with a specific goal. Both adults and 4‐ to 5‐year‐olds performed generic adjustments but, unlike adults, children made listener‐particular adjustments inconsistently. These and prior findings can be explained by assuming that particular adjustments can be costlier for children to implement compared to generic adjustments.



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Toward a mechanistic psychology of dialogue.Martin J. Pickering & Simon Garrod - 2004 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (2):169-190.
Definite Knowledge and Mutual Knowledge.Herbert H. Clark & Catherine R. Marshall - 1981 - In Aravind K. Joshi, Bonnie L. Webber & Ivan A. Sag (eds.), Elements of Discourse Understanding. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 10–63.
Theory of Probability.Harold Jeffreys - 1940 - Philosophy of Science 7 (2):263-264.

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