The Privileged Status of Category Representations in Early Development

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The ability to carve the world into broad categories (e.g., DOG) made up of distinct individuals (e.g., Lassie and Toto) is essential for adaptive behavior and has been the focus of extensive research in cognitive and developmental psychology. Classic work on the development of category representations has revealed that they emerge early: Even infants can conceive of distinct objects as equivalent members of the same category. However, more recently, research on conceptual development has begun to suggest a stronger conclusion, namely that mental representations of categories are privileged by our cognitive systems relative to representations of similar, but noncategorical, entities. According to this research, which I review in this article, our minds may be structured to facilitate the acquisition, retention, and manipulation of category-level information. This conclusion goes beyond current theories of conceptual development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-104
Number of pages6
JournalChild Development Perspectives
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Categories
  • Concepts
  • Conceptual development
  • Generic language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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