It’s in the sample: The effects of sample size and sample diversity on the breadth of inductive generalization

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

Developmental studies have provided mixed evidence with regard to the question of whether children consider sample size and sample diversity in their inductive generalizations. Results from four experiments with 105 undergraduates, 105 school-age children (M = 7.2 years), and 105 preschoolers (M = 4.9 years) showed that preschoolers made a higher rate of projections from large samples than from small samples when samples were diverse (Experiments 1 and 3) but not when samples were homogeneous (Experiment 4) and not when the task required a choice between two samples (Experiment 2). Furthermore, when a property occurred in large and diverse samples, preschoolers exhibited a broad pattern of projection, generalizing the property to items from categories not represented in the evidence. In contrast, adults followed a normative pattern of induction and never attributed properties to items from categories not represented in the evidence. School-age children showed a mixed pattern of results.


Published In

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 110, 4, 499-519.