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January 2023

The development of constraints on symbol-meaning structure in notation: evidence from production, interpretation, and forced-choice judgments

Journal/Book: Child Dev. 1985; 56: 177-95.

Abstract: Adults use notational systems in a variety of problem-solving situations. For notations to serve the goals we set them, they must conform to certain well-formedness rules, including one-to-one mapping between symbols and meanings and maintenance of the same symbol-meaning relations for both encoding and decoding. Do young children show an appreciation for the utility of notation by adhering to these rules in their production, interpretation, and judgment of notations? Study 1 provides a descriptive analysis of notations created by children aged 5-11 years. Study 2 is a forced-choice task in which preschoolers, 6- and 7-year-olds, and adults chose between a notation that was well-formed according to Goodman's theory of notation and one that violated exactly one of Goodman's principles. The 2 studies present converging evidence that young children may not impose the same symbol- meaning structure at decoding that was set up at encoding, and only after this develops does a preference for one form-one function mapping appear (approximately age 8). Comparisons are made to relevant aspects of the literature on language acquisition.

Keyword(s): Child Development|. Symbolism|

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