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Dev Psychol. 2004 Jan;40(1):95-113.

Mothers' behavior modifications during pretense and their possible signal value for toddlers.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400, USA.


An important issue for understanding early cognition is why very young children's real-world representations do not get confused by pretense events. One possible source of information for children is the pretender's behaviors. Pretender behaviors may vary systematically across real and pretend scenarios, perhaps signaling to toddlers to interpret certain events as not real. Pretender behaviors were examined in 2 experiments in which mothers were asked both to pretend to have a snack and really to have a snack with their 18-month-olds. Episodes were analyzed for condition differences in verbal and nonverbal behaviors, including smiling, looking, laughter, and functional movements. Reliable differences were found across conditions for several variables. In a 3rd experiment, children's apparent understanding of pretense in relation to their mothers' behaviors was examined, and significant associations were found with some of the mothers' behavioral changes but not others. This work provides a first inroad into the issue of how children learn to interpret pretense acts as pretense.

(c) 2003 APA

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