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The Study of Causal Knowledge and Word Knowledge in Preschoolers

Buy custom The Study of Causal Knowledge and Word Knowledge in Preschoolers essay

Buy custom The Study of Causal Knowledge and Word Knowledge in Preschoolers essay


It is known that “what young children learn from people is influenced by what they know about people-in other words, by their developing social cognition” (Kushnir, Vredenburgh, & Schneider, 2013). The authors of the study, namely Kushnir, Vredenburgh, & Schneider (2013) decided to find out how the three- and four-year children distinguish between causal knowledge and word knowledge, depending on the evaluation and identification of a source of new knowledge. Given that much of the research focuses on the fact that the children trust the sources of knowledge based on the words, the authors decided to test the value of causal knowledge obtained as a result of observing the actions the source of knowledge. Thus, the main purpose of their study can be described as an attempt to find out the specifics of development of causal and word types of knowledge in preschool children, given the features of the informants use only words, but also practical and demonstrable actions. The main prerequisite for the experiment was the idea that children not only perceive the words of other people who act as a source of knowledge, but also are able to monitor their actions, showing the ability to analyze and, as a consequence, make correct conclusions. To this end, the researchers conducted two experiments.

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The First Experiment

In the first experiment, the preschoolers saw two informants, two broken toys, and two tools. The two puppets – a monkey and a squirrel - served as informants. One of them showed knowledge of the toys’ names and tools and knew nothing about the way they can be fixed, while another one was not aware of their names, but could fix them. In the first experiment, 44 preschoolers (boys) were involved. They were divided into two groups that consisted of three and four year olds accordingly. The children were &ldquorecruited from local preschools in a small university town. They were predominantly non-Hispanic, White, and middle-class” (Kushnir et al, 2013). The experiment began with the fact that the children were told about what each of the informants knows and can do with a toy. Then each of the informants performed what they could. The first gave names to all the subjects, but could not fix the toys. At the same time, another one showed ignorance of the names of the objects, but successfully repaired toys.

One needs to indicate the fact that children did not initially know that one of the informants was a labeler, while another one was a fixer. In order to figure out if children understood the difference between the two kinds of knowledge (causal and word knowledge), they were asked different questions, such as: (a) “Can you tell me who fixed the toys?”, and (b) “Can you tell me who knew the names of the tools?” (Kushnir et al, 2013).

In case of wrong answers, the experimenter gave the correct answer, pointing to the appropriate informant. In addition, the head of the experiment has put all the items on the table, and then began asking questions regarding the names, functions and modes of fixing of the things. The task here was to understand how children are able to correlate the types of knowledge with their sources. In particular, the researches used the following questions:

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• “Label questions”: I don’t know what this is called. Who should we ask?”;

• Fix questions: “I don't know how to fix this. Who should we ask?”;

• Function questions: “I don't know what this is for. Who should we ask?” (Kushnir et al, 2013).

Using of focal analysis (in particular, in relation to “ask” questions), as well as the ANOVAs analysiss led to the conclusion that both 3- and 4-year-old children might quite successfully cope with the task of delimitation of the two types of knowledge and their sources. In particular, 61% of children accurately identified the type of informants, while 14% failed with identifying the informants, and other 25% - correctly identified one of the two informants. In general, this experiment showed that preschoolers can cope quite well with the task of separation of two types of knowledge, as well as their carriers, although 4-year-old children demonstrate greater success that is determined by a developed level of analysis and abstraction.

The Second Experiment

The task of the second experiment was to examine children’s ability to distinguish fixers from non-fixers. The experiment consisted of 16 participants, who were also “recruited from local preschools in a small university town. They were predominantly non-Hispanic, White, and middle-class” (Kushnir et al, 2013 ). The procedure involved individual work with each child. In a separate room, a child was shown four videos, two of which demonstrated the work of fixers, and the other – of non-fixers. A child could see how two people successfully fixed the toy using a screwdriver, while other’s efforts led to nothing. As in the previous experiment, the children were asked “ask-to-fix” questions, such as “I have another broken toy here. Who should I ask to help me fix the toy?” (Kushnir et al, 2013). The questions were meant to find out how children understand casual knowledge and can distinguish a fixer from a non-fixer. In addition, children were shown a video, in which adults offered their explanation of the breakage of the toys, and children had to answer the question on who of them was right. Finally, the children were asked to “label” questions. They were shown new items and asked about who can say what they are called.

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