Children's ability to make tentative interpretations of ambiguous messages

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Consistent with prior research, 5- and 6-year-old children overestimated their knowledge of the intended referent of ambiguous messages. Yet they correctly revised their interpretations of ambiguous messages in light of contradicting information that followed immediately, while maintaining their initial interpretations of unambiguous messages (Experiment 1). Children of this age were able to integrate information over two successive ambiguous messages to identify the intended referent (Experiment 2). However, unlike 7- and 8-year-olds, they were no more likely to search for further information following ambiguous messages compared with unambiguous ones (Experiment 3). We conclude that although 5- and 6-year-olds' interpretations of ambiguous messages are not tentative at the outset, they can use source monitoring skills to treat them as tentative retrospectively, at least over short time spans.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-114
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2001


  • knowledge judgments, explicit knowledge, source monitoring, procedural knowledge, ambiguity, decision making, uncertainty