The scope and origins of children's assumption of conventionality

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From early on in development, children assume that certain pieces of information to which they are exposed, are shared by members of their cultural community. This is indeed a crucial developmental achievement because much of what children need to know to function adaptively in the world is knowledge that is socially constructed and bound. In many ways, defining what is conventional is akin to defining what is cultural. This chapter reviews evidence regarding both, what and who children treat as conventional, and shows that indeed from a young age, children are neither completely generalists nor universalists. While this conclusion does not deny the possibility that children start off with a promiscuous conventionality, eventually learning how to filter out certain types of knowledge or people, the evidence reviewed here highlights the need for a developmentally sensitive account of the process by which children make these distinctions. A number of mechanisms known to be available to children at the relevant ages are proposed, which can help children figure out the domain of conventions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAccess to Language and Cognitive Development
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191731488
ISBN (Print)9780199592722
StatePublished - 19 Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Oxford University Press, 2012. All rights reserved.


  • Children's development
  • Communication
  • Conventions
  • Language
  • Linguistic forms


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