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Child Development Research
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 467872, 9 pages
Research Article

What Makes an Act a Pretense One? Young Children’s Pretend-Real Judgments and Explanations

1Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, ON, Canada M5B 2K3
2Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400400, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400, USA

Received 16 January 2013; Accepted 19 March 2013

Academic Editor: Tricia Striano

Copyright © 2013 Lili Ma and Angeline S. Lillard. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The present study examined what makes an act a pretense one for adults and preschoolers. Participants watched pretense versus real acts, judged whether each act was pretend or real, and justified their judgment by citing the cues they used. These reported cues are presumed to reflect viewers’ conception of what makes an act a pretense one. The results suggested that like adults, 5-year-olds represented pretense behavior in the form of contrasts between pretense and its real counterpart. However, children placed greater weight on deviant content than on behavioral cues, whereas adults used behavioral cues, especially movement, when content information was not available. These results are discussed in terms of how children’s intuitive theories of pretense might differ from those of adults.