Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

To children (but not adults) a rose by any other name is still a rose

Date:
December 27, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Two vital parts of mentally organizing the world are classification, or the understanding that similar things belong in the same category; and induction, an educated guess about a thing's properties if it's in a certain category. There are reasons to believe that language greatly assists adults in both kinds of tasks. But how do young children use language to make sense of the things around them? It's a longstanding debate among psychologists.

Two vital parts of mentally organizing the world are classification, or the understanding that similar things belong in the same category; and induction, an educated guess about a thing's properties if it's in a certain category. There are reasons to believe that language greatly assists adults in both kinds of tasks. But how do young children use language to make sense of the things around them? It's a longstanding debate among psychologists.

A new study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, challenges the predominant answer. "For the last 30 to 40 years it has been believed that even for very young children, labels are category markets, as they are for adults," explains psychologist Vladimir M. Sloutsky, who authored the paper with Ohio State University colleague Wei Deng. According to this theory, if you show anyone an oblong, scaled, limbless swimming thing and say it's a dog (its label), both adults and children will believe it's a dog (in that category of four-legged domesticated mammals) and should behave like a dog -- bark or wag its tail.

The study confirms that many adults do use labels this way. But children do not. "Our research suggests that very early in development labels are no different from other features," says Sloutsky. "And the more salient features may completely overrule the label." You insist the swimming thing is a dog. The child weighs all the evidence -- and "dog" is no more important than scales or swimming -- and concludes it's a fish.

To test their hypothesis, the psychologists showed pictures of two imaginary creatures to preschoolers and college undergraduates. Both animals had a body, hands, feet, antennae, and a head. The "flurp" was distinguished by a pink head that moved up and down; the "jalet" had a blue sideways-moving head. The heads were salient -- the only moving part. During training, the subjects learned what a flurp or a jalet looked like.

Then the experimenters changed some of the features, keeping the head consistent with most of them, and asked participants to supply the missing label. They also showed creatures with characteristics and a name, and the subjects had to predict -- induce -- the missing part. Both adults and children did best when the head was consistent with the name.

The difference arose when the head was a jalet's but label was "flurp," or vice-versa. Then, most of the adults went with the label (we accept that a dolphin is a mammal, even though it looks and swims like a fish). The children relied on the head for identification. Regardless of its name, a thing with a jalet's head is a jalet.

To eliminate the possibility that the participants were flummoxed by the invented names, they researchers called the creatures "carrot-eater" and "meat-eater." The results were the same.

Sloutsky says the findings could inform teaching and communicating with children. "If saying something is a dog does not communicate what it is any more than saying it is brown, then labeling it is necessary but by no means sufficient for a child to understand." Talking with young children, "we need to do more than just label things."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Vladimir M. Sloutsky and Wei Deng. Carrot-Eaters and Moving Heads: Salient Features Provide Greater Support for Inductive Inference than Category Labels. Psychological Science, 2012

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "To children (but not adults) a rose by any other name is still a rose." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111227153756.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, December 27). To children (but not adults) a rose by any other name is still a rose. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111227153756.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "To children (but not adults) a rose by any other name is still a rose." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111227153756.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Children Don't Give Words Special Power to Categorize Their World

Dec. 27, 2011 New research challenges the conventional thinking that young children use language just as adults do to help classify and understand objects in the world around them. In a new study involving 4- to ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins