Referential Communication in Pre-school Children with the Added Opportunity to Update when an Ambiguous Message was Produced
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Pre-school children tend to be unsuccessful at referential communication tasks. In this study, sixteen children aged 35-58 months had to describe two sets of novel stimuli to an adult listener in a referential communication context. However, if an ambiguous message was produced by the child they were deliberately shown an incorrect card and then they got one opportunity to update and therefore add information. It was found that the opportunity to update improved overall referential communication success. Furthermore, the production of effective messages increased with age and that conventional terms were commonly used when describing the stimuli. In addition, the pre-schoolers produced redundant and incomplete messages as a result of contrast failure. This indicates that pre-schoolers believe that each referent has an exclusive label and they do not complete a comparative analysis of the stimuli. These results depict the need for caregivers to encourage their children to produce messages which are adequate and to provide explicit feedback and allow for updating to occur.