How much does a shared name make things similar? Linguistic labels, similarity, and the development of inductive inference.
Date of Original Version
Abstract or Description
This article examines the development of inductive generalization, and presents a model of young children's induction and two experiments testing the model. The model specifies contribution of linguistic labels and perceptual similarity to young children's induction and predicts a correspondence between similarity judgment and induction of young children. In Experiment 1, 4- to 5-year-olds, 7- to 8-year-olds, and 11- to 12-year-olds were presented with triads of schematic faces (a Target and two Test stimuli), which varied in perceptual similarity, with one of the Test stimuli sharing a linguistic label with the Target, and another having a different label. Participants were taught an unobservable biological property about the Target and asked to generalize the property to one of the Test stimuli. Although 4- to 5-year-olds' proportions of label-based inductive generalizations varied with the degree of perceptual similarity among the compared stimuli, 11- to 12-year-olds relied exclusively on labels, and 7- to 8-year-olds appeared to be a transitional group. In Experiment 2 these findings were replicated using naturalistic stimuli (i.e., photographs of animals), with perceptual similarity manipulated by "morphing" naturalistic pictures into each other in a fixed number of steps. Overall results support predictions of the model and point to a developmental shift from treating linguistic labels as an attribute contributing to similarity to treating them as markers of a common category-a shift that appears to occur between 8 and 11 years of age.
Child Development, 72, 6, 1695-1709.