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About us How to find us A.M.B. (Anna) de Koster, MSc

A.M.B. de Koster, MSc

PhD student
A.M.B. de Koster, MSc

NWO project "Acting individually or together? An investigation of children's development of distributivity".


When we talk about group actions, each member of a group can act individually or the group can act together. Consider the following sentence:

The boys are pushing a car.

Are the boys pushing one car together, the collective interpretation, or are they each pushing their own car, the distributive interpretation? Both are possible, but adults generally prefer collective interpretations, while children seem to prefer distributive interpretations. What causes children to have different preferences and what factors affect the development?

In this project we will investigate children’s transition to adult distributivity preferences. Three phases look at each major step: childhood, adulthood and the transition.

Phase 1 investigates a recent proposal that children’s non-adult preferences arise from a  confusion about sets. This confusion is argued to stem from children’s limited cognitive resources. We will test this account with children and adults. Phase 2 experimentally investigates a recent account that adult preferences are derived via implicatures, and directly compares distributivity processing with implicature processing. Finally, Phase 3 takes an interdisciplinary approach by using computational cognitive modelling to simulate the development of children’s intuitions into adult preferences. Computational modelling allows precise examination of how each part of the theoretical model influences interpretation by allowing the same experiments to be simulated and to be compared to human results. 

Last modified:04 October 2016 10.02 a.m.

Contact information

Oude Kijk in 't Jatstraat 26
9712 EK Groningen
The Netherlands