Preschoolers' Preference for Syntactic Complexity Varies by Socioeconomic Status

Kathleen H. Corriveau, Katelyn Kurkul, Sudha Arunachalam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two experiments investigated whether 4- and 5-year-old children choose to learn from informants who use more complex syntax (passive voice) over informants using more simple syntax (active voice). In Experiment 1 (N = 30), children viewed one informant who consistently used the passive voice and another who used active voice. When learning novel words from the two informants, children were more likely to endorse information from the passive informant. Experiment 2 (N = 32) explored whether preference for the passive informant varied by socioeconomic status (SES; eligibility for free/reduced lunch). Although higher SES children selectively preferred the passive informant, lower SES children preferred the active informant. Explanations are discussed for why SES might moderate children's sensitivity to syntactic complexity when choosing from whom to learn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1529-1537
Number of pages9
JournalChild development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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