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Preschoolers optimize the timing of their conversational turns through flexible coordination of language comprehension and production

Lindsay, Laura, Gambi, Chiara and Rabagliati, Hugh 2019. Preschoolers optimize the timing of their conversational turns through flexible coordination of language comprehension and production. Psychological Science 30 (4) , pp. 504-515. 10.1177/0956797618822802

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Abstract

Conversation is the natural setting for language learning and use, and a key property of conversation is the smooth taking of turns. In adult conversations, delays between turns are minimal (typically 200 ms or less) because listeners display a striking ability to predict what their partner will say, and they formulate a response before their partner’s turn ends. Here, we tested how this ability to coordinate comprehension and production develops in preschool children. In an interactive paradigm, 106 children (ages 3–5 years) and 48 adults responded to questions that varied in predictability but were controlled for linguistic complexity. Using a novel distributional approach to data analysis, we found that when children can predict a question’s ending, they leave shorter gaps before responding, suggesting that they can optimize the timing of their conversational turns like adults do. In line with a recent ethological theory of turn taking, this early competency helps explain how conversational contexts support language development.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: SAGE Publications (UK and US) / Association for Psychological Science
ISSN: 0956-7976
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 24 October 2018
Date of Acceptance: 28 October 2018
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2020 18:00
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/116135

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