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PLoS One. 2014 Sep 23;9(9):e107910. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107910. eCollection 2014.

Getting the picture: iconicity does not affect representation-referent confusion.

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University of Plymouth, School of Psychology, Cognition Centre, Plymouth, United Kingdom.
University of Warwick, Department of Psychology, Coventry, United Kingdom.
Oxford Brookes University, School of Psychology, Oxford, United Kingdom.


Three experiments examined 3- to 5-year-olds' (Nā€Š=ā€Š428) understanding of the relationship between pictorial iconicity (photograph, colored drawing, schematic drawing) and the real world referent. Experiments 1 and 2 explored pictorial iconicity in picture-referent confusion after the picture-object relationship has been established. Pictorial iconicity had no effect on referential confusion when the referent changed after the picture had been taken/drawn (Experiment 1) and when the referent and the picture were different from the outset (Experiment 2). Experiment 3 investigated whether children are sensitive to iconicity to begin with. Children deemed photographs from a choice of varying iconicity representations as best representations for object reference. Together, findings suggest that iconicity plays a role in establishing a picture-object relation per se but is irrelevant once children have accepted that a picture represents an object. The latter finding may reflect domain general representational abilities.

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