A developmental examination of the conceptual structure of animal, artifact, and human social categories across two cultural contexts

Marjorie Rhodes, Susan A. Gelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous research indicates that the ontological status that adults attribute to categories varies systematically by domain. For example, adults view distinctions between different animal species as natural and objective, but view distinctions between different kinds of furniture as more conventionalized and subjective. The present work (N = 435; ages 5-18) examined the effects of domain, age, and cultural context on beliefs about the naturalness vs. conventionality of categories. Results demonstrate that young children, like adults, view animal categories as natural kinds, but artifact categories as more conventionalized. For human social categories (gender and race), beliefs about naturalness and conventionality were predicted by interactions between cultural context and age. Implications for the origins of social categories and theories of conceptual development will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-274
Number of pages31
JournalCognitive Psychology
Volume59
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2009

Keywords

  • Artifacts
  • Categorization
  • Cognitive development
  • Concepts
  • Culture
  • Gender
  • Natural kinds
  • Naïve biology
  • Race
  • Social categories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

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