Young children's understanding of denial.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Although a fair amount is known about young children's production of negation, little is known about their comprehension. Here, we focus on arguably the most complex basic form, denial, and how young children understand denial, when it is expressed in response to a question with gesture, single word, or sentence. One hundred twenty-six children in 3 age groups (Ms = 1 year 9 months, 2 years 0 months, and 2 years 4 months) witnessed an adult look into 1 of 2 buckets and then, in response to a question about whether the toy was in there, communicate either something positive (positive head nod, "yes," "it is in this bucket") or negative (negative head shake, "No," "It's not in this bucket"). The youngest children did not search differently in response to any of the communicative cues (nor in response to an additional cue using both gesture and single word). Children at 2 years 0 months searched at above-chance levels only in response to the negative word and negative sentence. Children at 2 years 4 months were successful with all 3 types of cues in both positive and negative modalities, with the exception of the positive sentence. Young children thus seem to understand the denial of a statement before they understand its affirmation, and they understand linguistic means of expressing denial before they understand gestural means.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Austin, K; Theakston, A; Lieven, E; Tomasello, M

Published Date

  • August 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 50 / 8

Start / End Page

  • 2061 - 2070

PubMed ID

  • 24911566

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-0599

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0012-1649

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/a0037179


  • eng