Comparison and Function in Children's Object Categorization


Although young children often rely on salient perceptual cues, such as shape, when categorizing novel objects, children shift towards deeper relational reasoning when they compare category members or attend to functional properties. In this study, we investigated the independent and combined effects of comparison and function in children’s categorization of novel objects. Across two experiments, we found that comparing two perceptually similar category members led children to discover non-obvious relational features that supported their categorization of novel objects. Together, these findings underscore the difficulty in categorizing novel objects but demonstrate that comparison may aid in this process by rendering less obvious relational structures more salient, thus inducing a shift towards a categorical rather than perceptual response.

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