Preschoolers joke with jokers, but correct foreigners

Elena Hoicka, Nameera Akhtar

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Thirty‐ and 36‐month‐old English speakers’ (N = 106) ability to produce jokes, distinguish between humorous and sincere intentions, and distinguish between English‐ and foreign‐language speakers, was examined in two tasks. In the Giving task, an experimenter requested one of two familiar objects, and a confederate always gave her the wrong object. In the Naming task, the confederate mislabeled familiar objects. In the English‐speaking conditions, the confederate laughed after doing the wrong thing (English‐Humor) or said, ‘There!’ (English‐Sincere). In the Foreign conditions, the French‐ or Italian‐speaking confederate laughed (Foreign‐Humor) or said, ‘D’accord!’ or ‘Va bene!’ (Foreign‐Sincere). When preschoolers were subsequently requested to give and name the same objects and a new set of familiar objects they were significantly more likely to imitate and ‘do the wrong thing’ in the Humor versus Sincere, and in the English versus Foreign conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)848-858
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number4
Early online date24 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2011

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Psychological Approaches for Studying Education


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