The decontextualisation of form and function in the development of pretence

Bigham, Sally and Bourchier-Sutton, Alison (2007) The decontextualisation of form and function in the development of pretence. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 25 (3). pp. 335-351. ISSN 0261-510X

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Through the process of decontextualization, the behaviours and objects used in children's pretence become increasingly detached from their real-life contexts and uses (Flavell, 1985). However, whilst age-related changes in children's pretence have been reasonably well documented, the relationship between the decontextualization of form and function has yet to be established and the relationship between pretence using substitute objects and pretence without substitute objects remains unclear. To address these issues, 3-8-year-old typically developing children (N = 84) were shown a series of pretend actions, like writing, enacted at various levels of decontextualization. Children's understanding of each action was assessed. The results revealed three main findings. First, form and function are both equally important in children's comprehension of object substitution pretence. Second, children find actions enacted using substitute objects that are similar to the referent in terms of both their form and function easier to interpret than those performed using decontextualized props - including body-partas-object (BPO) and imaginary object (IO) gestures - regardless of age. Finally, BPO and IO gestures are of equal complexity and children 5 years and above correctly interpret these gestures more readily than actions involving substitute objects that share no similarity with the referent. These findings are discussed in relation to dual and triune representation problems (DeLoache, 1995; Tomasello, Striano, & Rochat, 1999).

Item Type: Article
Identifier: 10.1348/026151006X153154
Keywords: Comprehension in children; Human behaviour; Object substitution; Gesture
Subjects: Psychology
Depositing User: Rod Pow
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2012 09:13
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2024 15:39

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