Children’s handling of ambiguous input

Beck, Sarah R. (2002). Children’s handling of ambiguous input. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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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: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Schools (1998 to 2008) > School of Psychology
School or Department: School of Psychology
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology


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