How to test animacy knowledge of young children in relation to big, blobby character costumes

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yarn
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How to test animacy knowledge of young children in relation to big, blobby character costumes

Post by yarn » Fri Oct 12, 2018 9:03 pm

Apologies for the poorly-worded subject title but a friend of mine was wondering how you would go about testing (or conducting an experiment to test) whether very young children know that there is an actual human or person inside the big, blobby character costumes (the ones who you might see on a high-street, promoting a kids' event or product) as opposed to being an inanimate object or otherwise fake (like a cartoon). Does anyone have any ideas?

I guess for older children, you could simply ask them but for younger children, the only thing I can think of is to observe how they act towards the character, for example, whether they show empathy in their interactions.

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lingua_franca
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Re: How to test animacy knowledge of young children in relation to big, blobby character costumes

Post by lingua_franca » Sat Oct 13, 2018 12:06 pm

I don't think observation is a reliable way to test this, as children will even show empathy towards their toys, as part of their play. At my local children's hospital they have an occasional Teddy Hospital where kids who are likely to need procedures can bring their teddies in for 'operations' or 'injections' or whatever, and the young ones really enter into the spirit of that. I don't know if they really believe Teddy's arm hurts, if they're expressing their views of their own illness through their toys, or if it's just a vivid game to them, but it's hard to tell just from watching the child. Young pre-verbal children might cry if you squash a leaf that they're enjoying watching, but I'm not sure if this shows that they believe the leaf to be alive.

If you're working with older verbal children, the best thing I could think of would be to show them different photo sets of animals, people, and blobby character costumes and to ask them to point to where the person is.
"Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Suppose it didn't," said Pooh, after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.
- A.A. Milne.

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maven
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Re: How to test animacy knowledge of young children in relation to big, blobby character costumes

Post by maven » Mon Oct 15, 2018 2:40 am

I don't think any child too young to have language could have the theory of mind skills required to know there is a person inside a costume. That would require quite sophisticated understanding of reality and pretend, that isn't present at a preverbal developmental stage. So, given that they will have language, I think you just ask kids "what is that?" and "how does it work/move/talk?" and "is it real?"
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare

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