Parents and Toddlers Distinguish Joke, Pretend and Literal Intentional Contexts through Communicative and Referential Cues

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Abstract

Parents exaggerate communicative cues (infant-directed speech, IDS; smiling; gaze to children) when pretending or joking, but it is not clear why. Additionally, referential cues (gaze, point to objects) remain unexamined in these contexts. Across Action (N=25; 16-20 months) and Verbal (N=43; 20-24 months) studies, parents pretended, joked, and interacted literally with toddlers. Examined was whether parents use the above cues to express positive emotion, grab attention, or for pedagogical purposes. Parents exaggerated IDS, and sometimes smiling, when joking or pretending to express positive emotion. For younger toddlers, parents increased gaze to toddlers and smiling when joking compared to pretend and literal contexts, feasibly to grab attention to scaffold joke understanding. Parents decreased gaze to objects when joking, plausibly to avoid toddlers generalizing jokes’ false information, following pedagogy theory. Younger toddlers responded appropriately to parents’ cues, highlighting how toddlers could distinguish intentions to joke from other acts. Parents and toddlers treated pretending as literal. In the older group, parents and toddlers did not distinguish contexts, perhaps because older toddlers rely on sophisticated cues, e.g., language, over the low-level cues measured.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Psychological Approaches for Studying Education

Keywords

  • Joking
  • Pretending
  • Cues
  • Positive emotion
  • Attention
  • Pedagogy theory

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