The influence of the imagination on reasoning by young children


Department of Psychology, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Rua Mendes Martins 112, Varzea, 50000 Recife PE, Brazil


Young children are often prone to an ‘empirical’ bias when asked to reason from premises that do not conform to their everyday knowledge. Experiment 1 identified three cues that help 4- and 5-year-olds to suppress this bias: when the premises are presented with a make-believe intonation; when they are presented in the context of a remote setting, such as another planet; and when they are accompanied by visual imagery. The facilitatory effect of all three cues suggests that children will accept premises that violate their empirical knowledge as a basis for reasoning so long as they are presented in a make-believe mode rather than a literal mode. Experiment 2 showed that this facilitatory effect on logical reasoning occurs for 4- and 6-year-old children alike. The pattern of results is linked to other developments in young children's imaginative abilities.