New research findings from the Université de Montréal reveals that children as young as four are able to understand and use irony. This study, published recently in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, may impact the way parents communicate with their family.
"Previous studies concluded that irony wasn't understood before the age of eight or ten," says Stephanie Alexander, a postdoctoral student at the Université de Montréal's Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and senior author of the study. "However, these studies were mostly done in a laboratory setting and mostly focused on sarcasm. We examined children at home and took into consideration four types of non-literal language: hyperbole, euphemism, sarcasm and rhetorical questions."
The study, which was done in collaboration with Holly Recchia from Concordia University, revealed that the children understood at least one ironic remark made by one of the parents. Although children can fully comprehend this language by age six, certain forms of irony such as hyperbole were understood at age four. In 22 of the 39 families studied, it was sarcasm that was best understood overall by the children.
Different language for different situations
Overall, hyperbole and sarcasm were most often used during positive interactions with children, while euphemisms and rhetorical questions were mostly used in situations of conflict. Also, mothers and fathers did not use irony in the same way. Mothers were more inclined to use rhetorical questions and fathers preferred sarcasm.
"Children's understanding of complex communication is more sophisticated than we believed in the past," says Alexander. "If parents are conscious that by age four a child can take a remark literally, especially in situations of conflict, using appropriate language can help defuse a potentially explosive situation."
Partners in research:
This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
About the study:
The paper, "Children's understanding and production of verbal irony in family conversations" was authored by Holly E. Recchia and Nina Howe of Concordia University, Hildy S. Ross of the University of Waterloo and Stephanie Alexander of the Université de Montréal.
On the Web:Cited British Journal of Developmental Psychology study:
Julie Gazaille | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering