Normative Dimensions of Generic Knowledge


Some of our generic knowledge is based upon what we consider to be normal instances of kinds of things. We expect a normal dog to be four-legged; if it is not four-legged, we assume that something is wrong with this particular dog, or that it is incomplete as a kind of thing dog. Prasada & Dillingham (2009) showed that one reason we expect certain properties to be present is because we understand them to be aspects of the kinds of things. Our research offered an alternative hypothesis: these normative expectations are due to these distinct properties being beneficial in some way. Four experiments investigated this using statements that prompted responses for normative expectations. We found that while the beneficence of these properties does underwrite normative expectations to an extent, the predominant understanding was that these expectations were grounded in the aspectual quality of these properties.

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