Developmental Changes in Strategies for Gathering Evidence About Biological Kinds

Emily Foster-Hanson, Kelsey Moty, Amanda Cardarelli, John Daryl Ocampo, Marjorie Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How do people gather samples of evidence to learn about the world? Adults often prefer to sample evidence from diverse sources—for example, choosing to test a robin and a turkey to find out if something is true of birds in general. Children below age 9, however, often do not consider sample diversity, instead treating non-diverse samples (e.g., two robins) and diverse samples as equivalently informative. The current study (N = 247) found that this discontinuity stems from developmental changes in standards for evaluating evidence—younger children chose to learn from samples that best approximate idealized views of what category members are supposed to be like (e.g., the fastest cheetahs), with a gradual shift across age toward samples that cover more within-category variation (e.g., cheetahs of varying speeds). These findings have implications for the relation between conceptual structure and inductive reasoning, and for the mechanisms underlying inductive reasoning more generally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12837
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Biological kinds
  • Category induction
  • Conceptual development
  • Diversity-based reasoning
  • Ideals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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