Young Children's Response Tendencies Toward Yes–No Questions Concerning Actions


  • This research was supported by two National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grants (R01 HD047290 and R01 HD048962) to the third author.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to V. Heather Fritzley, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, Brampton, ON L6Y 5H9, or Kang Lee, Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto, 45 Walmer Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2X2. Electronic mail may be sent to or


Two experiments investigated response tendencies of preschoolers toward yes–no questions about actions. Two hundred 2- to 5-year-old children were asked questions concerning actions commonly associated with particular objects (e.g., drinking from a cup) and actions not commonly associated with particular objects (e.g., kicking a toothbrush). The impact of delay and comprehension of questions were also investigated. Results revealed a consistent developmental transition: Younger children tended to display a yes bias whereas older children did not display a bias unless they faced incomprehensible questions, in which case they displayed a nay-saying bias. Delay shifted children's responses in such a way that “no” answers were given more often. These findings hold important implications regarding the use of yes–no questions with children.