The Effect of Labels on Categorization: Is Attention to Relevant Features a Good Index of Infants' Category Learning?


Shifting attention to category relevant features has been demonstrated in adults to be a successful strategy for categorizing novel objects. The current experiment was aimed at exploring whether infants would use a similar strategy for category learning when objects were presented with and without labels. Using an eye tracker, 6- to 8-month-old infants were familiarized and tested with a novel visual category where only half of the features were relevant for category membership. There was some evidence that infants learned the target category only when objects were not labeled. Furthermore, infants who learned the target category did not appear to optimize their attention to the category relevant features. In addition, contrary to some theoretical accounts, there was no evidence that labels facilitated categorization by highlighting category relevant features.

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