Structure mapping and relational language support children's learning of relational categories

Dedre Gentner*, Florencia K. Anggoro, Raquel S. Klibanoff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Learning relational categories-whose membership is defined not by intrinsic properties but by extrinsic relations with other entities-poses a challenge to young children. The current work showed 3-, 4- to 5-, and 6-year-olds pairs of cards exemplifying familiar relations (e.g., a nest and a bird exemplifying home for) and then tested whether they could extend the relational concept to another category (e.g., choose the barn as a home for a horse). It found that children benefited from (a) hearing a (novel) category name in a relational construction and (b) comparing category members. The youngest group-3-year-olds-learned the category only when given a combination of relational language and a series of comparisons in a progressive alignment sequence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1173-1188
Number of pages16
JournalChild development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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