Narration and Perspective-Taking in Children

Summer 2015

Sari Rickansrud : Cognitive Science, English, Education (Minor)

Mentor: Alison Gopnik, Psychology

Relatively recently there has been a surge of interest in investigating the social value of fiction. For example, some researchers claim that fiction fosters the development of perspective taking abilities by serving as social practice as the reader mentally simulates narrated events. By perspective taking abilities I mean the capacity to understand another person’s thoughts, feelings, and point of view. Extending upon such research, I plan to investigate via an experimental study with young children whether or not the narrative point of view from which a story is told (i.e. first vs. third person) affects children’s perspective taking abilities. I have decided to work with children because there is strong evidence for the occurrence of a developmental shift in these abilities between the ages of 4 and 5 years, so I can determine if narration enhances these early developing abilities. I hope that this study will improve our understanding of some of the cognitive processes involved in perspective taking as well as potentially provide useful information for designing education policy and intervention for children.

I truly cannot coherently express the gratitude I feel toward the SURF program and the Pergo Foundation for accepting me as a SURF fellow and allowing me to conduct my own research in pursuit of answering questions that I find meaningful. I am extraordinarily excited to be designing my own experiment that weds my love of learning how people think with my love of literature. I am exceedingly grateful for this opportunity to become a better scholar and to learn about the educational impact of fiction. Truly, thank you very much!