Discipline: Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
Subcategory: Social Sciences/Psychology/Economics
Darria Streeter - Ohio State University
Adults use regional dialects to draw inferences about speakers, but those inferences are probably based on stereotypes about the regions where the dialects are spoken. For example, we have stereotypes about people from New England, and match these stereotypes with the New England accent. For this to occur, a sense of geography is required. It is not yet understood exactly when this geographic knowledge is acquired in children and adolescents, but it is known that even young children do have social opinions about speakers with regional dialects different from their own. Children’s knowledge about geography, and their appreciation of regional dialect, improves a lot between the ages of 6 and 13. To understand the connection between these two developments, it is important that we understand how children’s knowledge of geographic regions develops. Participants were guests visiting the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio. A total of 96 participants were tested in four different age groups 6-7, 8-9, 10-11, and 12-13. They were asked with parental permission, to name 5 cities, 5 states and 5 countries. Their responses were coded for category accuracy: if their answer was an actual city, state, or country respectively. Demographics and travel history were also collected. Findings showed that children had greater knowledge about geography with age. The younger children gave fewer responses on average than the older children, showing that they were familiar with fewer places. However, younger children were just as accurate with their responses, showing that by age 6 – 7 years, children did have a basic understanding of what belonged in each category. Among the geographic categories, children were more accurate with naming states. This could be because children are exposed to state names more than country or city names. Contrary to our expectations, children’s travel history did not influence the number or accuracy of responses given. This could be because all the children were high in socioeconomic status, and were doing as well as children can do. Overall, these results suggest that by age 6 – 7 years, children have a relatively good understanding of geographic categories, and what develops over these years is familiarity with more specific places. Future research will involve looking at how children’s knowledge of geography influences their knowledge about regional dialect.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): National Science Foundation
Faculty Advisor: Laura Wagner, N/A