Children’s Perception of Animacy: Social Attributions to Moving Figures Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Adults describe abstract shapes moving in a goal-directed manner using animate terms. This study tested which variables affect school-aged children’s descriptions of moving geometrical shapes. Children aged 5 to 9 years were shown displays of interacting geometrical shapes and were asked to describe them. Across participants, instructions, number of moving figures, whether a figure caught another, and complexity of the scene were manipulated. Nine-year-olds used significantly more animate phrases than 5-year-olds. Furthermore, we found an Age by Condition interaction. Five-year-olds made significantly more animate statements in the animate condition, while 7-year-olds and 9-year-olds were less affected by instructions. Scene complexity increased children’s use of animate phrases. Number of agents present on the screen and whether a catch occurred did not impact children’s animate attributions. Our results support the hypothesis that children, like adults, are attuned to animacy cues and describe chasing agents in animate terms.

publication date

  • May 2021