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    Young children’s reasoning of artifact function across different contexts: an action-protest paradigm

    Underwood, Joanne (2010) Young children’s reasoning of artifact function across different contexts: an action-protest paradigm. Northumbria University.


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    Information at the core of young children’s artifact representation, such as function and categorisation has been central to current research on representation of artificial kinds. Previous studies have found that adults consistently favour the original intended function over an idiosyncratic or conventional use. However, the developmental findings in children are less consistent. This study examined young children’s sensitivity to violations of the conventional use of artifacts and whether function is viewed normatively through employing an action-protest paradigm. The aim of this study was to observe children’s spontaneous responses to alternate uses of everyday objects which violated conventional functions. Eighteen 3-years-olds and nineteen 4-year-olds were shown, typical or atypical functions of three everyday artifacts by a puppet. A second puppet subsequently used the artifacts in a different way to the first puppet. Children’s implicit and explicit protests were coded. Overall, 3- and 4-year-old children protested more to violations of the first demonstrated function, irrespective of whether the second demonstration was used in a conventional, idiosyncratic or instrumental manner. These findings suggest that the action-protest paradigm measured protest against the first function demonstrated or rule provided. Results are discussed in light of the current literature on normatively structured game-like contexts and children’s artifact reasoning.

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