Children use salience to solve coordination problems.
Humans are routinely required to coordinate with others. When communication is not possible, adults often achieve this by using salient cues in the environment (e.g. going to the Eiffel Tower, as an obvious meeting point). To explore the development of this capacity, we presented dyads of 3-, 5-, and 8-year-olds (N = 144) with a coordination problem: Two balls had to be inserted into the same of four boxes to obtain a reward. Identical pictures were attached to three boxes whereas a unique--and thus salient--picture was attached to the fourth. Children either received one ball each, and so had to choose the same box (experimental condition), or they received both balls and could get the reward independently (control condition). In all cases, children could neither communicate nor see each other's choices. Children were significantly more likely to choose the salient option in the experimental condition than in the control condition. However, only the two older age groups chose the salient box above chance levels. This study is the first to show that children from at least age 5 can solve coordination problems by converging on a salient solution.
Grueneisen, S; Wyman, E; Tomasello, M
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