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Too Young for School, but Ready for Irony - featured October 29, 2010

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Editor's Note: Late last week, the New York Times ran this article about a study conducted by the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, and while it is not specifically about our special kiddos, we thought it was fascinating and wanted to share it with you.

[Source: The New York Times]

When a 12-year-old’s mother asks him “How many times do I have to tell you to stop?” he will understand that the answer, if any is required, had better not include a number.

But that insight requires a sophisticated understanding of ironic language that develops long after fluent speech. At what age do children begin to sense the meaning of such a question, and to what degree can they respond appropriately to other kinds of irony?

In laboratory research on the subject, children demonstrate almost no comprehension of ironic speech before they are 6 years old, and little before they are 10 or 11. When asked, younger children generally interpret rhetorical questions as literal, deliberate exaggeration as a mistake and sarcasm as a lie.

But there has been little research on the subject outside the laboratory. So a group of Canadian researchers set out to record parents and children at home as they used four types of ironic language: sarcasm, hyperbole, understatement and rhetorical questions. It turns out that very young children can understand and even use ironic speech, even if they cannot describe what they have done to a researcher.

Read the Rest of this Article on the New York Times.com


Tags: News of the Week School Psychology Newsletter 29 October 2010