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Parents' linguistic, acoustic, and non-verbal cues for toddler-directed pretense and humour

  • Start date: 01 May 2010
  • End date: 15 April 2011

Joking and pretending are two very similar concepts. They both involve intentionally doing or saying the wrong thing, and are enjoyable. However joking is about doing something wrong just for the sake of it. In contrast, pretending is about doing something wrong which is imagined to be right.

Past research found that parents offer cues to their toddlers when pretending, such as tone of voice, and repeating actions. Similarly, parents offer cues to toddlers when joking, such as showing their disbelief through language, and tone of voice. However no research has compared how parents differentially cue their toddlers to joking and pretending.

In this project parents will pretend, joke, and play in a literal way with their toddlers. For example, parents might use a sponge like a duck while pretending, use a cat as a duck when joking, and use a duck as a duck when being literal.

This project will examine whether parents offer linguistic, acoustic, and non-verbal cues to help their toddlers understand and differentiate these concepts. This is an important area of study as it will track how toddlers learn about abstract concepts, which may aid children to think creatively and learn about the world.