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Beyond Literal Depiction: Children’s Flexible Understanding of Pictures

VIVALDI, Romina and ALLEN, Melissa (2021) Beyond Literal Depiction: Children’s Flexible Understanding of Pictures. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 210 (105208). ISSN 0022-0965

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Abstract or description

Pictures can represent more than one entity, and they can also represent literal or non-literal concepts associated with a referent. In two studies, we examined whether 4-year-olds, 6-year-olds and adults can view pictures as both literal and non-literal when they are presented with different contextual cues, which would indicate representational flexibility. In study one, children and adults were asked to name iconic pictures after hearing stories explaining how a fictional character had created or used a picture in, for instance, a literal context (e.g. a girl used a picture of a crown to represent what she wanted for Christmas) and a second story on how the same artist produced or used an identical picture in a non-literal context (e.g. the same girl used the picture of a crown to represent what she wanted to be when she grew up). After each story, the picture was shown and participants were asked “What does this mean?” Six year-olds and adults, but not 4-year-olds, showed representational flexibility in their interpretations of pictures across contexts. Study two provided evidence of flexible pictorial interpretations even for the younger age group, when they were presented with a game in which children were asked to select a suitable picture to represent a non-literal referent. Taken together, our results suggest that the conditions under which representational flexibility is elicitated influence the developmental progression observed.

Item Type: Article
Faculty: School of Life Sciences and Education > Psychology and Counselling
Depositing User: Romina VIVALDI
Date Deposited: 21 May 2021 14:24
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2021 08:41
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/6921

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