That’s the gist of a new study by Lizbeth Finestack and Marc Fey from the University of Kansas, published in the August ’09 American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. Their study compared 6-8 year olds assigned to either a deductive training group, or an inductive training group. A computer program was used to teach a specific aspect of an invented alien language. The deductive training group received explanations, i.e. a brief description of the target. Both groups were made aware that the alien – “Tiki” – used many of the same words that we use, but this alien language also contained something different. In this case that was different word endings for male and female verbs. The kids in the deductive group were told that when it’s a boy you add -po to the end, and when it’s a girl you add -pa to the end. The kids in the inductive group were just supposed to figure it out on their own, another way of saying they were required to use inductive reasoning.
Finestack and Fey’s results showed that significantly more kids in the deductive group acquired the target. They concluded by asserting that generally, the most efficacious treatment may be one that combines natural language approaches with explanations. For those with access, here’s the link.