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Abstract

Thirty- and 36-month-old English speakers’ (N = 106) ability to produce jokes, distinguish between humorous and sincere intentions, and distinguish between English- and foreign-language speakers, was examined in two tasks. In the Giving task, an experimenter requested one of two familiar objects, and a confederate always gave her the wrong object. In the Naming task, the confederate mislabeled familiar objects. In the English-speaking conditions, the confederate laughed after doing the wrong thing (English-Humor) or said, ‘There!’ (English-Sincere). In the Foreign conditions, the French- or Italian-speaking confederate laughed (Foreign-Humor) or said, ‘D’accord!’ or ‘Va bene!’ (Foreign-Sincere). When preschoolers were subsequently requested to give and name the same objects and a new set of familiar objects they were significantly more likely to imitate and ‘do the wrong thing’ in the Humor versus Sincere, and in the English versus Foreign conditions.