Maria Chiara Levorato, Barbara Nesi

La causalità implicita dei verbi di percezione visiva: uno studio su bambini in età scolare

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In this paper the hypothesis that visual perception verbs activate causal inferences in school age was tested. Previous investigation have extended to perception verbs the models concerning interpersonal verbs and showed that adult speakers identify the cause of the perceptual act either in the subject or in the object of the sentence in relation to the fact that the verb describes an intentional perceptual act or an unintentional perceptual experience. In experiment 1, second and fourth graders were asked to complete sentences like "subject verb object, because...", where the verb could describe either an intentional act (e.g. spy), or a perceptual experience (e.g. recognise), or could be neutral with respect to intentionality (central verbs: look, see, observe). Causal answers concerned mostly the subject of the sentence for the Intentional verbs, the object of the sentence for the Experience verbs, whereas for the central verbs no bias was found. This result was obtained when the object of the sentence was animate, but not when it was inanimate: in this case the causal source was identified mostly in the subject of the sentence, independently of the type of verb. Experiment 2 was aimed at testing the hypothesis that the factor "animacy" of the object was crucial in the causal attribution of interpersonal verbs too: Verbs which in the literature are indicated as inducing causal attributions to the subject or to the object were used and it was found that when the object of the interpersonal action is inanimate, the subject of the sentence is perceived as the causal source both for action verbs and for state verbs. An explanation was advanced according to which the meaning of the verbs is not completely responsible of the causal attribution, being the event representation and participant's role equally relevant.

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