Brandy Frazier, assistant professor of psychology at UH Manoa, recently published a paper in Child Development titled, “Preschoolers’ Search for Explanatory Information Within Adult-Child Conversation.” The article examines curiosity in preschool-aged children, focusing on their “how and why” questions.
In the study, Frazier and co-researchers at the University of Michigan carried out two studies of 2- to 5-year-olds, focusing on their “how” and “why” questions, as well as their requests for explanatory information, and carefully examined the children’s reactions to the answers they received from adults.
In the first study, the researchers examined longitudinal transcripts of six children’s everyday conversations with parents, siblings, and visitors at home from ages 2-4. In the second study, they looked at the laboratory-based conversations of 42 preschoolers, using toys, storybooks, and videos to prompt the children, ages 3-5, to ask questions.
By looking at how the children reacted to the answers they received to their questions, the researchers found that children seem to be more satisfied when they receive an explanatory answer than when they do not. In both studies, when preschoolers got an explanation, they seemed satisfied (they agreed or asked a new follow-up question). In addition, when the children received answers that were not explanations, they seemed dissatisfied and were more likely to repeat their original question or provide an alternative explanation.
While the moderate sample size means that the study cannot yet be generalized to all children, the research clearly suggests that by age 2, children contribute actively to the process of learning about the world around them.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
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