Effects of explanation on children's question asking

Azzurra Ruggeri, Fei Xu, Tania Lombrozo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The capacity to search for information effectively by asking informative questions is crucial for self-directed learning and develops throughout the preschool years and beyond. We tested the hypothesis that explaining observations in a given domain prepares children to ask more informative questions in that domain, and that it does so by promoting the identification of features that apply to multiple objects, thus supporting more effective questions. Across two experiments, 4- to 7-year-old children (N = 168) were prompted to explain observed evidence or to complete a control task prior to a 20-questions game. We found that prior prompts to explain led to a decrease in the number of questions needed to complete the game, but only for older children (ages 6–7). Moreover, we found that effects of explanation manifested as a shift away from questions that targeted single objects. These findings shed light on the development of question asking in childhood and on the role of explanation in learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103966
StatePublished - Oct 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Active learning
  • Cognitive development
  • Explanation
  • Question asking


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