Tell me about pangolins! evidence that children are motivated to learn about kinds

Andrei Cimpian, Jo Ann J. Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We propose that conceptual development is facilitated by an early emerging bias that leads children to privilege learning about kinds of things in the world (e.g., dogs, chairs). Three studies (N = 144) provided evidence consistent with this proposal. When given a choice between finding out about a kind or about a concrete individual from that kind, 4- and 5-year-olds preferred to find out about the kind. This preference was broad in scope, extending to both familiar (Experiment 3) and unfamiliar (Experiments 1 and 2) kinds. Children's desire to learn about kinds was also expressed flexibly rather than being automatically cued by superficial features of the task: Children who talked to an ostensibly ignorant experimenter did not favor the facts about kinds (Experiments 1 and 3). Moreover, children's preference was specific to kinds rather than extending to plural sets more generally: Children who chose between facts about a single individual and facts about multiple individuals did not favor the latter (Experiment 2). These findings suggest that conceptual development may be driven in part by a heightened motivation to learn about kinds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-55
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Volume143
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2014

Keywords

  • Conceptual development
  • Generic knowledge
  • Kinds
  • Knowledge acquisition
  • Learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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