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Young Children are Reality-Prone When Thinking about Stories

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
Authors:
Deena Skolnick Weisberg aDepartment of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, 3720 Walnut Street, Solomon Labs, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA bDepartment of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences, Box 1821, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA cDepartment of Psychology, Yale University, P.O. Box 208205, New Haven, CT 06520–8205, USA * Corresponding author, e-mail: deena.weisberg@psych.upenn.edu
aDepartment of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, 3720 Walnut Street, Solomon Labs, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA bDepartment of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences, Box 1821, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA cDepartment of Psychology, Yale University, P.O. Box 208205, New Haven, CT 06520–8205, USA * Corresponding author, e-mail: deena.weisberg@psych.upenn.edu

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David M. Sobel aDepartment of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, 3720 Walnut Street, Solomon Labs, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA bDepartment of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences, Box 1821, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA cDepartment of Psychology, Yale University, P.O. Box 208205, New Haven, CT 06520–8205, USA * Corresponding author, e-mail: deena.weisberg@psych.upenn.edu

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Joshua Goodstein aDepartment of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, 3720 Walnut Street, Solomon Labs, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA bDepartment of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences, Box 1821, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA cDepartment of Psychology, Yale University, P.O. Box 208205, New Haven, CT 06520–8205, USA * Corresponding author, e-mail: deena.weisberg@psych.upenn.edu

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Paul Bloom aDepartment of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, 3720 Walnut Street, Solomon Labs, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA bDepartment of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences, Box 1821, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA cDepartment of Psychology, Yale University, P.O. Box 208205, New Haven, CT 06520–8205, USA * Corresponding author, e-mail: deena.weisberg@psych.upenn.edu

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Abstract

Many parents and some researchers assume that young children are fantastical thinkers. We examined this assumption in the domain of reasoning about fictional stories. We presented 4-year-olds with realistic and fantastical stories and asked them how best to continue these stories: with ordinary events or with events that violate real-world causal laws. Children preferred the ordinary events for both types of stories (Experiment 1, n=42) while a comparison group of adults (n=68) continued stories based on their content. To ensure that children’s responses reflected their intuitions about stories per se, Experiment 2 (n=60) asked 4-year-olds to make the same choice between realistic and fantastical events, but in the context of figuring out an experimenter’s preferences or learning a new word. Here, children did not demonstrate an overall bias for the realistic events. These findings suggest that children are reality-prone in the context of fictional stories.

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