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Children's knowledge about attentional capacity limits was investigated in 2 experiments. Children in Experiment 1 were asked to choose whether to listen to pairs of stories simultaneously or one at a time. Both 3- and 4-year-olds chose to have 2 puppets tell stories one at a time, but only 4-year-olds showed a clear preference for listening to 2 tape-recorded stories one at a time. 3-year-olds appeared to know the conversational rule forbidding simultaneous speech by people, but their willingness to listen to 2 tape recorders at once indicates that they do not appreciate the difficulty of comprehending simultaneous messages. The focus of Experiment 2 was children's ability to detect comprehension problems while listening to 2 simultaneous messages. 3-year-olds initially showed no preference for listening to stories one at a time, but after hearing simultaneous stories they preferred to hear one story at a time. Although they did not anticipate comprehension problems, 3-year-olds did appear to detect them once the stories were played.
Child Development © 1988 Society for Research in Child Development