Imagine, for a moment, you are a parent trying to limit how much dessert your sugar-craving young children can eat.
"You can have cake or ice cream," you say, confident a clear parental guideline has been laid out.
But your children seem to ignore this firm ruling, and insist on having both cake and ice cream. Are they merely rebelling against a parental command? Perhaps. But they might be confusing "or" with "and," as children do at times, something studies have shown since the 1970s. What seems like a restriction to the parent sounds like an invitation to the child: Have both!
But why does this happen? Now a study by MIT linguistics professors and a team from Carleton University, based on an experiment with children between the ages of 3 and 6, proposes a new explanation, with a twist: In examining this apparent flaw, the researchers conclude that children deploy a more sophisticated mode of logical analysis than many experts have previously realized.