More like a bee, less like a spider, and not like a tomato: Ecologically-valid enrichment experiences promote changes in how young children differentiate biological categories

AbstractKnowledge about categories supports learning and generalization, and this knowledge is particularly important early in development. Although most theories of category knowledge posit a role for experience in acquiring this knowledge, the current evidence for the presumed role of experience in category knowledge acquisition remains limited to correlational evidence, indirect measures of category knowledge, and computational studies. Here we provide direct evidence that repeated experience with a biological domain in an ecologically-valid setting changed children’s category representations, with increased differentiation of items within that domain and relative to a second domain. The implications of these results for understanding the role of experience in category acquisition, and the contribution of enrichment experiences to school readiness are discussed.

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