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Title:The Development of the Ability to Distinguish Between Literal and Intended Meanings of Messages
Author(s):Webber, Lynne Suzanne
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Brown, Ann L.,
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Early Childhood
Psychology, Developmental
Abstract:The purpose of this thesis was to identify the circumstances under which the ability to distinguish between the literal and the intended meanings of messages emerge. Young children's ability to detect ambiguity in spoken messages seems limited because they do not appear to understand that the words used in a message, the literal meaning of the message, do not always specify exactly what the speaker intended those words to mean.
In four studies, children were asked to judge the adequacy of messages that decribed the hiding place of toy animals. In all studies half the children knew the location of the toy and therefore, knew the speaker's intended meaning, whereas the remaining children did not know the toy's location. In Studies I and II task difficulty was varied by increasing the size of the judgement array in order to establish whether increases in cognitive load would affect four- to eight-year-olds ability to distinguish between the literal and intended meanings of messages. In Study III, children were asked to recall the speaker's literal message before judging message adequacy in order to see whether young children have difficulty keeping the literal and intended meanings of the message in mind simultaneously. In Study IV, young children were taught to solve literal-intended meaning problems more efficiently.
The findings of the research support four general conclusions. First, the results are consistent with the view that young children have a limited understanding of the literal-intended meaning distinction. Second, even older children have difficulty distinguishing between literal and intended meanings of messages when task demands are increased. Third, young children appear to fuse the literal and the intended meanings of messages, and based their judgment of message adequacy on the fused version. Fourth, young children can be taught to distinguish between literal and intended meanings of messages. Overall, the findings are consistent with a cognitive limitations hypothesis.
Issue Date:1988
Description:189 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1988.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8823281
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1988

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