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Children’s handling of ambiguous input

Beck, Sarah R. (2002)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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I explored young children’s abilities to use behavioural strategies to handle ambiguity, and whether two subcomponent skills, monitoring (un)certainty and identifying disambiguating information, caused them difficulty. Despite success revising interpretations based on ambiguous input (Experiments 1 and 2), 5- to 6- year old children failed to seek disambiguating information appropriately (Experiment 3). Although children treated their interpretations as if they were tentative, their failure to perform a simple seeking response suggested that they did not know they were tentative at the time of making them. Their difficulties were unlikely to result from an inability to resist making an immediate interpretation, as they were unable to select appropriate strategies with hindsight (Experiments 4 and 5). Children performed relatively well when they had only to monitor their (un)certainty (Experiments 6 and 7). However, they did not choose disambiguating information in preference to ambiguous information that narrowed their choice of referents (Experiment 8). I argue that although children experience uncertainty when confronted by ambiguity, they are unable to plan what to do to remove it. Until the age of around 7, children do not know why ambiguous input gives rise to uncertainty and hence, cannot select appropriate strategies to resolve the problem.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Robinson, Elizabeth J.
School/Faculty:Schools (1998 to 2008) > School of Psychology
Keywords:cognitive development; children; uncertainty; ambiguity; metacognition; reasoning
Subjects:BF Psychology
Institution:University of Birmingham
Library Catalogue:Check for printed version of this thesis
ID Code:210
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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