The Concept of Reference in the Cognitive Sciences
  • ISSN 0929-0907
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9943
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Researchers interested in children's understanding of mind have claimed that the ability to ascribe beliefs and intentions is a late development, occurring well after children have learned to speak and comprehend the speech of others. On the other hand, there are convincing arguments to show that verbal communication requires the ability to attribute beliefs and intentions. Hence if one accepts the findings from research into children's understanding of mind, one should predict that young children will have severe difficulties in verbal communication. Conversely, if this prediction fails, this casts doubt on the claim that young children lack meta-representational skills. Using insights from Relevance Theory, an experiment was designed to test children's ability to recover a speaker's intended referent in situations in which the speaker's words underdetermine the referent. Results suggest that children's skills are comparable to those of untutored adults in similar situations. Thus this study indirectly casts doubt on the claim that young children lack meta-representational skills.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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