Young children know that trying is not pretending: a test of the "behaving-as-if" construal of children's early concept of pretense.
In 3 studies, young children were tested for their understanding of pretend actions. In Studies 1 and 2, pairs of superficially similar behaviors were presented to 26- and 36-month-old children in an imitation game. In one case the behavior was marked as trying (signs of effort), and in the other case as pretending (signs of playfulness). Three-year-olds, and to some degree 2-year-olds, performed the real action themselves (or tried to really perform it) after the trying model, whereas after the pretense model, they only pretended. Study 3 ruled out a simple mimicking explanation by showing that children not only imitated differentially but responded differentially with appropriate productive pretending to pretense models and with appropriate productive tool use to trying models. The findings of the 3 studies demonstrate that by 2 to 3 years of age, children have a concept of pretense as a specific type of intentional activity.
Rakoczy, H; Tomasello, M; Striano, T
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