Same/different relation detection and word production in 4-year-olds

AbstractRelational processing is critical for complex cognition (Gentner, 2003, 2010). Here, we investigate the development of two fundamental relations—same and different. Previous research suggests that children’s understanding of same may precede understanding of different, and that language—especially labels for these relations—may support this understanding (Hochmann et al., 2017; Christie & Gentner, 2014). We presented 4-year-olds with either a different-only or a same/different mixed version of the Relational-Match-to-Sample (RMTS) task. Children made relational matches at above-chance rates in both conditions and performance was comparable with previous findings on a same-only RMTS (Christie & Gentner, 2014; Hoyos, Shao, & Gentner, 2016; replication in process). Across both conditions, children who said the words “same”/“different” outperformed those who did not, suggesting that spontaneous production of the terms indicated better encoding of the relations. Interestingly, children produced the word “same” more than the word “different”, even when presented with match-to-different trials.

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