The Development of Structural Thinking about Social Categories


Representations of social categories help us make sense of the social world, supporting predictions and explanations about groups and individuals. Here we explore whether children and adults are able to understanding category-property associations in structural terms, locating an object of explanation within a larger structure and identifying structural constraints that act on elements of the structure. We show that children as young 3-4 years of age show signs of structural thinking, but that this capacity does not fully develop until after 7 years of age. These findings introduce a viable alternative to internalist accounts of social categories, such as psychological essentialism.

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