Verbal imprecision as an index of knowledge in transition.

M. Perry, J. L. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children can be verbally imprecise when they are learning, but this phenomenon is not well documented. Verbal imprecision, anecdotally referred to as "hemming and hawing," may be indexed by restatements, comments on one's lack of knowledge, deletions of sentence constituents, and pauses. The authors examined whether they could quantify indexes of verbal imprecision and use them to predict changes in problem-solving performance. Four types of verbal imprecision were found to predict improved performance. Results were used to make inferences about processes of knowledge change. In particular, evidence suggests that adopting a new approach and rejecting an old one may be independent, and ordered, processes. Although others have drawn similar conclusions, using verbal imprecision as the data source is a relatively unique and readily accessible method for lending support to this model of knowledge change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)749-759
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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