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Children's mental representation of referential relations : representational partitioning and "theory of mind"

Apperly, Ian (2000)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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In six experiments I investigated children’s handling of intensional contexts. The results were described in terms of a developmental extension of Fauconnier’s mental spaces account of meaning representation. Implications for children’s mentalistic development were explored. In chapter 1 I considered the “referential opacity” raised by the representational nature of the mind. I interpreted the findings of Russell (1987) as evidence for a developmental dissociation between handling of intensional contexts - due to the partial nature of representations - and “intentional” referential problems - due to representations being outdated or hypothetical. In experiments 1-3 I demonstrated this dissociation explicitly, and showed that it extended to non-linguistic intensional contexts. Experiments 4 &5 showed correlations between children’s handling of intensional contexts and linguistic ambiguity, which I explained by their common requirement that representational content be held as partial. Experiment 6 showed that children’s handling of intensional questions (and mentalistic explanations) improved after observing incorrect action on the basis of partial knowledge. This effect of supporting context was short-lived, suggesting that it supported on-line activity not question comprehension. After earlier success with out-dated and hypothetical representations, children’s handling of partial representations at 6-7 years explains their concurrent late success with intensional contexts and linguistic ambiguity, and constitutes a qualitative change in their representational abilities.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Robinson, Elizabeth J.
School/Faculty:Schools (1998 to 2008) > School of Psychology
Subjects:BF Psychology
Institution:University of Birmingham
Library Catalogue:Check for printed version of this thesis
ID Code:782
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties.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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