Multiple Sources of Competence Underlying the Comprehension of Inconsistencies: A Developmental Investigation

Bradley J. Morris, Uri Hasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


How do children know the sentence "the glass is empty and not empty" is inconsistent? One possibility is that they are sensitive to the formal structure of the sentences and know that a proposition and its negation cannot be jointly true. Alternatively, they could represent the 2 state of affairs referred to and realize that these are incommensurate, that is, that a glass cannot simultaneously be empty and contain something. In 2 studies, the authors investigated how children (N = 186; ages 4-8) acquire competence to notice inconsistencies. The authors found that children could determine that 2 states of affairs were incommensurate before being able to determine that statements of the form p and not-p were inconsistent. The results demonstrate that competence in understanding inconsistent relations depends on (a) the ability to represent 2 states of affairs and (b) the ability to process negation in the context of an inconsistency. The authors discuss these results in relation to sources of competence that may underlie the assessment of such simple inconsistencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-287
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • contradiction
  • inconsistency
  • language and cognitive development
  • negation


Dive into the research topics of 'Multiple Sources of Competence Underlying the Comprehension of Inconsistencies: A Developmental Investigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this