Is a jumper angrier than a tree?

Amanda Waterman, Mark Blades and Christopher Spencer ask nonsensical questions – but their research has serious implications for anyone who interviews children.

ASK one of your colleagues whether a jumper was angrier than a tree, and they might well suggest you go and have a lie down, or make yourself a nice cup of tea. But what if you asked a child? Would a five-year-old be likely to ask if you were getting enough sleep, or say that the question can’t be sensibly answered? Results from a study by Hughes and Grieve (1980) suggested that children do not, in fact, ask for clarification or indicate any uncertainty when asked a nonsensical question. Instead, they try to give an answer to the question. In this article we will explore reasons why and the implications for research and legal settings.

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