Young children's learning of relational categories: multiple comparisons and their cognitive constraints

  • Thibaut J
  • Witt A
Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.


Relational categories are notoriously difficult to learn because they are not defined by intrinsic stable properties. We studied the impact of comparisons on relational concept learning with a novel word learning task in 42-month-old children. Capitalizing on Gentner et al. (2011), two, three or four pairs of stimuli were introduced with a novel relational word. In a given trial, the set of pairs was composed of either close or far pairs (e.g., close pair: knife1-watermelon, knife2-orange, knife3-slice of bread and knife4-meat; far pair: ax-evergreen tree, saw-log, cutter-cardboard and knife-slice of bread, for the “cutter for” relation). Close pairs (2 vs. 3 vs. 4 pairs) led to random generalizations whereas comparisons with far pairs gave the expected relational generalization. The 3 pair case gave the best results. It is argued that far pairs promote deeper comparisons than close pairs. As shown by a control experiment, this was the case only when far pairs display well known associations.




Thibaut, J.-P., & Witt, A. (2015). Young children’s learning of relational categories: multiple comparisons and their cognitive constraints. Frontiers in Psychology, 6.

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free