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Developmental changes in resolutions of contradictory communications Lightfoot, Cynthia Gladdess


This study attempted to define and examine some conditions under which various resolutions of contradictory verbal-facial communications are possible. These conditions included the receiver's cognitive developmental understanding of communication in general, and the nature of the context in which specific communications occurred. Preschoolers, grade school children, and adults participated in two studies. In the first, reaction time and message appraisal measures served to identify a group of subjects who responded differentially to contradictory and congruent communications. The second study examined the ways in which subjects resolved contradictions between verbal and facial messages. It was predicted that young children, unable to distinguish between the contents of a message and its meaning, would resolve the communications by negating the contents of either the verbal or facial' cues. Older subjects were expected to resolve the communications by manipulating the relationship between the message contents and their referents, using specific contextual information when available to validate the meaning of both verbal and facial message components. These hypotheses were supported by the results of this investigation.

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