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Words Speak Louder Than Actions: Understanding Deliberately False Remarks

Amy Demorest, Christine Meyer, Erin Phelps, Howard Gardner and Ellen Winner
Child Development
Vol. 55, No. 4 (Aug., 1984), pp. 1527-1534
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130022
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130022
Page Count: 8
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Words Speak Louder Than Actions: Understanding Deliberately False Remarks
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Abstract

This study investigated the ability in 6-, 9-, and 13-year-olds and adults to understand sincere, deceptive, and sarcastic remarks. Remarks of each type were constructed by varying evidence for the speaker's belief and communicative purpose (what the speaker wants the listener to believe). As hypothesized, 3 steps in understanding were documented. First, children tend to interpret all remarks as sincere: they assume that the speaker's belief and purpose are in line with his statement. Next, at ages 9 and 13, children appreciate deliberate falsehood but tend to see all false remarks as deceptive: they appreciate that the speaker's statement may be intentionally discrepant from his belief, but not from his purpose. Finally, adults identify sarcasm with some frequency: they recognize that the speaker's belief and purpose may both be out of line with his statement. The role of evidence to discriminate speaker belief and purpose is discussed.

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