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Title: Children's understanding of distinctions between 'real' and 'not-real'
Author: Bunce, Louise
ISNI:       0000 0001 3508 9234
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2007
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Children's ability to develop an accurate perception of reality, that is differentiate between what is 'real' and 'not-real', is an important issue for research (Harris, 2001). Their understanding of real/not-real distinctions is often assessed using questions containing words such as real and pretend. This is problematic because these words can be used to refer to two different perceptions of reality: existence and authenticity; for example, a question about whether Father Christmas is 'real' can be interpreted as a question about existence (i.e. whether he exists) or about authenticity (i.e. whether someone dressed-up as him is the genuine Father Christmas). The current studies explored children's use and interpretation of words such as real in relation to their understanding of real/not-real distinctions. In Study 1, children's everyday uses of real were analysed from parental diary records and this revealed that they described the authenticity of objects and both the authenticity and existence of fantasy characters. This suggested that in experimental tests children may not interpret a question about existence as intended. This hypothesis was supported in Studies 2-4 in which children justified their real/not-real judgements for everyday objects and fantasy characters by referring to aspects of authenticity and existence. In light of these findings, in Studies 5-7 children's understanding of the ontological status of fantasy characters was compared in two different paradigms: one relied on use of the terms real and not-real (a categorisation task) and the other did not (the Scenarios task, a novel paradigm in which children chose appropriate characters to fulfil certain roles). The results from these tasks revealed that children had a better understanding of the fictional nature of fantasy when the terms real and not-real were not used, suggesting that previous research has underestimated children's understanding in this domain. The discussion centres on the implications of these results for designing research tasks to assess children's understanding of distinctions between 'real' and 'not-real'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available