Normative Social Role Concepts in Early Childhood

Emily Foster-Hanson, Marjorie Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current studies (N = 255, children ages 4–5 and adults) explore patterns of age-related continuity and change in conceptual representations of social role categories (e.g., “scientist”). In Study 1, young children's judgments of category membership were shaped by both category labels and category-normative traits, and the two were dissociable, indicating that even young children's conceptual representations for some social categories have a “dual character.” In Study 2, when labels and traits were contrasted, adults and children based their category-based induction decisions on category-normative traits rather than labels. Study 3 confirmed that children reason based on category-normative traits because they view them as an obligatory part of category membership. In contrast, adults in this study viewed the category-normative traits as informative on their own (not only as a cue to obligations). Implications for continuity and change in representations of social role categories will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12782
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2019


  • Concepts and categories
  • Conceptual development
  • Deontic
  • Dual character
  • Normativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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