Children and adults often generalize a word to objects of the same shape. However, the shape properties on which generalization is based are unknown. We investigated the degree to which two shape dimensions were represented categorically by children and adults when learning names for objects. Multidimensional scaling techniques were used to establish the perceptual similarity of two sets of objects in Experiment 1. In Experiments 2 and 3, children (from 2;8 to 4;5 years of age) and adults participated in two tasks in which they learned a novel name for an exemplar. We then examined how often the novel name was generalized to different objects and to line drawings of the objects. In one task, participants generalized the names from memory; in a second task the exemplar was in front of the participant during generalization. Adults accepted names more often to objects that fell "within" the proposed shape boundaries than to objects that fell "across" the boundaries. Children, however, were just as likely to generalize names to novel objects that fell within as to objects that crossed the boundaries.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by a Land-Grant McKnight Professorship from the University of Minnesota to M. Sera. The work was conducted while Maurissa Abecassis held a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada 1967 Scholarship. We thank John Hilton, Mervyn Bergman, Milissa Tilton, and Chryle Elieff for help with stimulus construction and data collection. We thank Walter Bischof and Anne Pick for comments on an earlier draft. We also thank the teachers, parents, and students of the Shirley Moore Laboratory School for participation in the project. Experiments 1 and 2 were presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development in April 1997 in Washington DC. Experiment 3 was presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development in April 1995 in Indianapolis.
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- Object identification
- Object recognition
- Semantic development
- Shape bias
- Shape similarity