Drinking and driving don't mix: Inductive generalization in infancy

  • Mandler J
  • McDonough L
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The traditional view of inductive generalization in infancy is that it rests on perceptual similarity; infants are said to form perceptually based categories, such as dogs and cats, and then to associate various properties with them. Superordinate-level inductions, such as generalizations about animals as a domain, have been considered to be more abstract and assumed to be a later achievement. Three experiments were conducted to investigate these issues, using 14-month-olds as subjects. We modeled various properties or actions appropriate to animals or to vehicles and then assessed whether infants were willing to generalize their imitations of these actions to different exemplars from the same and different domains. Contrary to the traditional view, we found that infants this age have generalized the properties of drinking and sleeping throughout the animal domain, and the properties of "being keyed" and "giving a ride" throughout the vehicle domain. These generalizations are constrained solely by the boundaries of the domains themselves and are not influenced by the perceptual similarity of exemplars within the domains.

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  • Jean M. Mandler

  • Laraine McDonough

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