Preschoolers use nonverbal cues to identify reliable informants in word learning
The present study investigates 4-year-old children’s ability to use speakers’ pragmatic competence as an indicator of whom to learn from. In this study, pragmatic competence is measured as the speaker’s ability to adhere to the Gricean maxim of relation. The children were divided into three conditions with different levels of nonverbal feedback about the quality of a speaker’s contribution to a conversation: no feedback, feedback from the experimenter, and feedback from a conversation participant. Children in the experimenter feedback and participant feedback conditions were more successful at identifying the maxim adherer than the children in the no feedback condition. Only children in the participant feedback condition were above chance in choosing the labels offered by the maxim adherer.