The Role of Conceptual and Perceptual Information on Inductive Reasoning in Early Childhood


There is an ongoing debate about the relative contribution of conceptual and perceptual information to inductive generalization in early childhood. In the classic study bearing on this debate, pictures representing familiar animals were arranged such that category membership was supposed to be in conflict with perceptual similarity. However, later studies revealed that most of the stimuli in this study failed to impose this conflict. The present study revisited this issue. Extensive calibration was conducted to ensure that the two sources of information were in conflict. Despite near-ceiling accuracy in identifying the category membership of objects used in the study (e.g., bird-bird-bat, dog-dog-cow, cat-cat-raccoon, etc.), 4-year-old children relied on their knowledge of category membership only 55% of the time when there was strong conflict between category membership and perceptual similarity. These findings will be discussed in relation to alternative accounts of knowledge acquisition and generalization early in development.

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