The cognitive underpinnings of referential abilities

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The aim of the chapter is to take stock and bring together fields of enquiry relevant to the investigation of preschool children’s referential abilities. After an appraisal of the evidence as to what adults’ referential abilities really are, the key cognitive prerequisites for unhindered performance in experimental tasks assessing referential abilities are identified. An estimation of when these cognitive prerequisites are in place in young children is then provided, on the basis of a review of the relevant developmental psychology literature. This leads to concrete predictions as to the emergence of referential abilities in preschool children, upon which one can define a programme of research to progress our understanding of children’s referential abilities.


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