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Access to Language and Cognitive Development$
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Michael Siegal and Luca Surian

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199592722

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592722.001.0001

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Children’s responses to yes-no questions

Children’s responses to yes-no questions

Chapter 5 Children’s responses to yes-no questions
Access to Language and Cognitive Development

V. Heather Fritzley

Mako Okanda

Shoji Itakura

Kang Lee

Oxford University Press

Questioning is one of the most important means to obtain information from children for both empirical and practical purposes. This chapter reviews research on the issue of whether children, particularly young preschoolers, have yes biases when they respond to yes-no questions in which the task is simply to choose yes or no as an answer. Drawing from work carried out in America, Canada, Hungary, Japan, and elsewhere, it describes developmental changes in terms of children's response biases to yes-no questions and shows that such biases are the most pronounced when children are unfamiliar with either the subject matter in question or the words used in the question. Several reasons are advanced to account for a yes bias. One relates to perceived social factors. That is, children might feel social pressures that they have to provide an answer (i.e., ‘yes’ response) when questioned by adults. Another is that young preschoolers may be unable to appropriately answer questions due to cognitive factors that impact on their ability to understand conversations or pragmatics with the others, or their inhibitory control. The implications of these findings for developmental research and practices involving young children are discussed.

Keywords:   response bias, young children, yes bias, questioning, inhibitory control, developmental changes

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