When humans become animals: Development of the animal category in early childhood

Patricia A. Herrmann*, Douglas L Medin, Sandra R Waxman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

The current study examines 3- and 5-year-olds' representation of the concept we label 'animal' and its two nested concepts - animal contrastive (including only non-human animals) and animal inclusive (including both humans and non-human animals). Building upon evidence that naming promotes object categorization, we introduced a novel noun for two distinct objects, and analyzed children's patterns of extension. In Experiment 1, children heard a novel noun in conjunction with two non-human animals (dog, bird). Here, both 3- and 5-year-olds readily accessed animal contrastive and extended the noun systematically to other (previously un-named) non-human animals. In Experiment 2, children heard a novel noun in conjunction with a human and non-human animal. Here, 5-year-olds (but not 3-year-olds) accessed animal inclusive and extended the noun systematically to humans and non-human animals. These results underscore the developmental challenge facing young children as they identify the scope of the fundamental biological term 'animal' and its corresponding, nested concept(s).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-79
Number of pages6
JournalCognition
Volume122
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

Keywords

  • Categorization
  • Cognitive development
  • Folk-biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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