Young children’s reasoning of artifact function across different contexts: an action-protest paradigm
Margaret Anne Defeyter
University of California, Santa Barbara
An essential part of everyday life is the way in which people interact with human-made objects. In a recent study, Casler et al. (2009) found that toddlers protested to a puppet using an object in an atypical manner following demonstration of the conventional function. However, the order of function demonstration was not counterbalanced, hence it is not clear whether toddlers were protesting to objects being used in an atypical manner; or merely protesting to the puppet not following the ‘rules of the game’. To investigate these two hypotheses, 41 3-year-olds and 39 4-year-olds were randomly assigned to one of the four function conditions (conventional-idiosyncratic, conventional-instrumental, idiosyncratic-conventional, and instrumental-conventional). In each condition, a puppet used anobject for a specific function, and then a second puppet used the object in a different way to the modelled function. Children’s protests to each object use were recorded. Three and four-year-olds showed similar levels of overall protest to the second function demonstrated across all conditions. Children only protested to the first demonstrated function in the idiosyncratic/conventional condition. However, following this protest, these children showed significantly higher levels of protest to the second function demonstration. These findings are discussed in terms of normativity and context.