To generalize or not to generalize: Spatial categories are influenced by physical attributes and language

Susan J. Hespos, Thomas B. Piccin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

The current work explored the conditions under which infants generalize spatial relationships from one event to another. English-learning 5-month-olds habituated to a tight- or loose-fit covering event dishabituated to a change in fit during a containment test event, but infants habituated to a visually similar occlusion event did not. Thus, infants' responses appeared to be driven by the physical nature of the fit rather than visual similarity. This response pattern was replicated with Korean-speaking adults, but English-speaking adults showed no sensitivity to change in fit for either event. These findings suggest that language development links linguistic forms to universal, pre-existing representations of meaning, and that linguistic experience can shape sensitivity to distinctions that are marked in one's native language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-95
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Science
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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