The authors investigated the relationship between mother-child conversation and children's social understanding during middle childhood. Thirty-eight mother-child pairs participated, including a younger group (5-7 years old) and an older group (8-10 years old). Children completed 2 measures of social understanding and mothers and children discussed 4 stories involving social dilemmas. Results indicated that compared to the younger group, the older group (a) performed better on both measures of social understanding and (b) produced more basic mental talk (i.e., talk about beliefs, emotions, personality traits, and desires), and more advanced mental talk (i.e., talk about contrasting perspectives, recursion and relationship between mental states, and advanced emotions). Mothers of older children also produced more basic and advanced mental talk. Mothers' advanced mental talk predicted both children's social understanding and children's advanced mental talk.
Children and adults rated their own certainty following inductive inferences, deductive inferences, and guesses. Beginning in kindergarten, participants rated deductions as more certain than weak inductions or guesses. Deductions were rated as more certain than strong inductions beginning in Grade 3, and fourth-grade children and adults differentiated strong inductions, weak inductions, and informed guesses from pure guesses. By Grade 3, participants also gave different types of explanations for their deductions and inductions. These results are discussed in relation to children's concepts of cognitive processes, logical reasoning, and epistemological development.
Two experiments investigated 1st-, 3rd-, and 5th-grade children's and adults' judgments related to the controllability of cognitive activities, including object recognition, inferential reasoning, counting, and pretending. In Experiment 1, fifth-grade children and adults rated transitive inference and interpretation of ambiguous pictures as more effortful than object recognition or deduction by elimination, and first-grade children rated transitive inference as more effortful than deduction by elimination. In Experiment 2, third-and fifthgrade children rated it more difficult to arrive at alternative outcomes for object recognition than for pretending, and adults distinguished object recognition and deduction from pretending and interpreting ambiguous pictures. From first-grade to adulthood there were increases in the number of distinctions made among cognitive activities in terms of level of controllability.
This study investigated 3-to 5-year-olds' inductive generalizations about similarities between siblings. Children were presented with contrasts in appearance and either sibling or classmate status and asked to generalize either biological properties or behaviors. Performance did not differ from chance for judgments about siblings, but children generalized on the basis of appearance more than classmate status. Thus, young children do not necessarily expect siblings to share biological and behavioral characteristics, but do regard sibling status as different from an arbitrary social relationship such as classmate status.
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