What determines our intuitions as to which objects are members of specific artifact kinds? Prior research suggests that factors such as physical appearance, current use, and intended function are not at the core of concepts such as chair, clock and pawn. The theory presented here, based on Levinson`s (1993) intentional-historical theory of our concept of art, is that we determine that something is a member of a given artifact kind by inferring that it was successfully created with the intention to (...) belong to that kind. This theory can explain why some properties (such as shape) are more important than others (such as color) when we determine kind membership and can account for why certain objects are judged to be members of artifact kinds even though they are highly dissimilar from other members of the kinds. It can also provide a framework for explaining the conditions under which broken objects cease to be members of their kinds and new artifacts can come into existence. This account of our understanding of artifact concepts is argued to be consistent with more general "essentialist" theories of our understanding of concepts corresponding to proper.. (shrink)
Psychological essentialism posits that humans naturally The results were as follows, ‘Without any hesitation, he assume that individuals have underlying invisible picked up the drum. Holding it in his right hand, he played essences that determine the categories they fall into .
A wealth of human knowledge is acquired by attending to information provided by other people – but some people are more credible sources than others. In two experiments, we explored whether young children spontaneously keep track of an individual’s history of being accurate or inaccurate and use this information to facilitate subsequent learning. We found that 3- and 4-year-olds favor a previously accurate individual when learning new words and learning new object functions and applied the principle of mutual exclusivity to (...) the newly learned words but not the newly learned functions. These findings expand upon previous research in a number of ways, most importantly by showing that (a) children spontaneously keep track of an individual’s history and use it to guide subsequent learning without any prompting, and (b) children’s sensitivity to others’ prior accuracy is not specific to the domain of language. Ó 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
A few months ago, a young man in jeans and a baseball cap took a violin into a subway station in Washington DC during morning rush hour. He opened the case in front of him, put some coins inside to encourage donations and played for 45 minutes. The young man was Joshua Bell, one of the world's greatest violinists, and he was playing his multimillion-dollar Stradivarius. He was incognito, as an experiment devised by The Washington Post to see whether people (...) appreciate great art in an unlikely place. (shrink)
Are current theories of moral responsibility missing a factor in the attribution of blame and praise? Four studies demonstrated that even when cause, intention, and outcome (factors generally assumed to be sufficient for the ascription of moral responsibility) are all present, blame and praise are discounted when the factors are not linked together in the usual manner (i.e., cases of ‘‘causal deviance’’). Experiment 4 further demonstrates that this effect of causal deviance is driven by intuitive gut feelings of right and (...) wrong, not logical deliberation. Ó 2003 Published by Elsevier Science (USA). (shrink)
Adults value certain unique individuals—such as artwork, sentimental possessions, and memorabilia—more than perfect duplicates. Here we explore the origins of this bias in young children, by using a conjurer’s illusion where we appear to produce identical copies of realworld objects. In Study 1, young children were less likely to accept an identical replacement for an attachment object than for a favorite toy. In Study 2, children often valued a personal possession of Queen Elizabeth II more than an identical copy, but (...) showed no such bias for another sort of valuable object. These findings suggest that young children develop attachments to individuals that are independent of any perceptible properties that the individuals possess. Ó 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
Generic sentences (such as ‘‘Birds lay eggs’’) are important in that they refer to kinds (e.g., birds as a group) rather than individuals (e.g., the birds in the henhouse). The present set of studies examined aspects of how generic nouns are understood by English speakers. Adults and children (4- and 5-year-olds) were presented with scenarios about novel animals and questioned about their properties, using generic and non-generic questions. Three primary findings emerged. First, both children and adults distinguished generic from non-generic (...) reference, interpreting generics as referring to kinds. Thus, under certain contexts children and adults accepted that ‘‘Dobles have claws’’ even when all the dobles in the available context were clawless. Second, adults further distinguished properties that are inborn from those that are acquired. Inborn properties were judged to be predicated of a generic kind, even when all available instances have lost the property, but this was not the case for acquired properties. Third, children did not distinguish inborn from acquired properties. These data suggest the existence of developmental changes in conceptual or semantic understanding, and are interpreted in light of recent theories of psychological essentialism. Ó 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
Recent findings suggest that infants are capable of distinguishing between different numbers of objects, and of performing simple arithmetical operations. But there is debate over whether these abilities result from capacities dedicated to numerical cognition, or whether infants succeed in such experiments through more general, non-numerical capacities, such as sensitivity to perceptual features or mechanisms of object tracking. We report here a study showing that 5-month-olds can determine the number of collective entities – moving groups of items – when non-numerical (...) perceptual factors such as contour length, area, density, and others are strictly controlled. This suggests both that infants can represent number per se, and that their grasp of number is not limited to the domain of objects. q 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
What does The Simpsons have to say about this issue? Most likely, absolutely nothing. The Simpsons is a fine television show, but it’s not where to look for innovative ideas in cognitive neuroscience or the philosophy of mind. We think, however, that it can help give us insight into a related, and extremely important, issue. We might learn through this show something about common-sense metaphysics, about how people naturally think about consciousness, the brain and the soul.
Children tend to extend object names on the basis of sameness of shape, rather than size, color, or materialFa tendency that has been dubbed the ‘‘shape bias.’’ Is the shape bias the result of well-learned associations between words and objects? Or does it exist because of a general belief that shape is a good indicator of object category membership? The present three studies addressed this debate by exploring whether the shape bias is specific to naming. In Study 1, 3-year-olds showed (...) the shape bias both when asked to extend a novel name and when asked to select an object of the same kind as a target object. Study 2 found the same shape bias when children were asked to generalize properties relevant to category membership. Study 3 replicated the findings from Study 1 with 2-year-olds. These findings suggest that the shape bias derives from children’s beliefs about object kinds and is not the product of associative learning. (shrink)
Unobservable properties that are specific to individuals, such as their proper names, can only be known by people who are familiar with those individuals. Do young children utilize this “familiarity principle” when learning language? Experiment 1 tested whether forty-eight 2- to 4-year-old children were able to determine the referent of a proper name such as “Jessie” based on the knowledge that the speaker was familiar with one individual but unfamiliar with the other. Even 2-year-olds successfully identified Jessie as the individual (...) with whom the speaker was familiar. Experiment 2 examined whether children appreciate this principle at a general level, as do adults, or whether this knowledge may be specific to certain word-learning situations. To test this, forty-eight 3- to 5-year-old children were given the converse of the task in Experiment 1—they were asked to determine the individual with whom the speaker was familiar based on the speaker’s knowledge of an individual’s proper name. Only 5-year-olds reliably succeeded at this task, suggesting that a general understanding of the familiarity principle is a relatively late developmental accomplishment. (shrink)
Despite its considerable intellectual interest and great social relevance, religion has been neglected by contemporary develop- mental psychologists. But in the last few years, there has been an emerging body of research exploring children’s grasp of certain universal religious ideas. Some recent findings suggest that two foundational aspects of religious belief – belief in divine agents, and belief in mind–body dualism – come naturally to young children. This research is briefly reviewed, and some future directions..
New Haven - What people think about many of the big issues that will be discussed in the next two months - like gay marriage, stem-cell research and the role of religion in public life - is intimately related to their views on human nature. And while there may be differences between Republicans and Democrats, one fundamental assumption is accepted by almost everyone. This would be reassuring - if science didn't tell us that this assumption is mistaken.
The false belief task has often been used as a test of theory of mind. We present two reasons to abandon this practice. First, passing the false belief task requires abilities other than theory of mind. Second, theory of mind need not entail the ability to reason about false beliefs. We conclude with an alternative conception of the role of the false belief task. q 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
propose that these deficits, along with more subtle limithis fact, and insist that they themselves had always tations in adults’ social-cognitive reasoning, are all known this fact . Young children also have problems manifestations of the same cognitive bias. This is the..
Young children reliably distinguish reality from fantasy; they know that their friends are real and that Batman is not. But it is an open question whether they appreciate, as adults do, that there are multiple fantasy worlds. We test this by asking children and adults about fictional characters’ beliefs about other characters who exist either within the same world (e.g., Batman and Robin) or in different worlds (e.g., Batman and SpongeBob). Study 1 found that although both adults and young children (...) distinguish between within-world and across-world types of character relationships, the children make an unexpected mistake: they often claim that Batman thinks that Robin is make believe. Study 2 used a less explicit task, exploring intuitions about the actions of characters—whom they could see, touch, and talk to—and found that children show a mature appreciation of the ontology of fictional worlds. q 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
I am very grateful to Aaron Cicourel, Penelope Brown, Max Louwerse, and Matthew Ventrura for their constructive comments. Aaron Cicourel provides a helpful summary of my book and his commentary offers a good place to enter the discussion for readers who have not yet read How Children Learn the Meanings of Words. Brown and Louwerse and Ventura raise some critical questions with regard to the text to which I will speak in turn.
How do young children extend names for human-made artifacts, such as knife, toy, and painting? We addressed this issue by showing 3-year-olds, 5-year-olds, and adults a series of simple objects and asking them for each, `What is this?' In one condition, the objects were described as purposefully created; in another, the objects were described as being created by accident. This manipulation had a signi®cant effect on the participants' responses: even 3- year-olds were more likely to provide artifact names (e.g. `a (...) knife') when they believed the objects were intentionally created and material-based descriptions (e.g. `plastic') when they believed the objects were accidentally created. This result supports a theory of artifact naming in which intuitions about intention play an important role. q 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
College students implicitly judge interracial sex and gay sex to be morally wrong Some moral intuitions arise from psychological processes that are not fully accessible to consciousness. For instance, most people disapprove of consensual adult incest between siblings, but are unable to articulate why—they just feel that it is wrong (Haidt, 2001). More generally, there is evidence for at least two sources of moral judgment: explicit conscious reasoning and tacit intuitions, which are motivated by emotional responses (Greene et al., 2001) (...) and learned associations (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). (shrink)
Two studies demonstrate that a dispositional proneness to disgust (“disgust sensitivity”) is associated with intuitive disapproval of gay people. Study 1 was based on previous research showing that people are more likely to describe a behavior as intentional when they see it as morally wrong (see Knobe, 2006, for a review). As predicted, the more disgust sensitive participants were, the more likely they were to describe an agent whose behavior had the side effect of causing gay men to kiss in (...) public as having intentionally encouraged gay men to kiss publicly— even though most participants did not explicitly think it wrong to encourage gay men to kiss in public. No such effect occurred when subjects were asked about heterosexual kissing. Study 2 used the Implicit Association Test (IAT; Nosek, Banaji, & Greenwald, 2006) as a dependent measure. The more disgust sensitive participants were, the more they showed.. (shrink)
Shaun Nichols (this issue) correctly points out that current theories of the development of mindreading say nothing about children's intuitions concerning indeterminist choice. That is, there are numerous theories of how children make sense of belief, desire, and action, but none that appeal to any notion of free will. Nichols suggests two alternatives for why this is the case. It could either be (a) an --outrageous oversight-- on the part of developmental psychologists or (b) a principled omission, reﬂecting a consensus (...) that the notion of indeterminist choice is absent from children's mindreading processes. Nichols charitably favors the sec- ond alternative. (shrink)
In Moral Minds, Marc Hauser makes an audacious claim about moral thought. He argues that morality is best understood in much the same way as Noam Chomsky described language: as the product of an innate and universal mental faculty. For Hauser, moral intuition is not the product of culture and education, nor is it the result of rational and deliberative thought, nor doesitreduce to the workings of the emotions. Instead, it is human nature to unconsciously and automatically evaluate the moral (...) status of human actions: to judge them as right or wrong, allowed or forbidden, optional or obligatory. (shrink)
Many strands are woven into the ideas and work of Jeffrey Gray. From a background of classical languages and a spell in military intelligence spent honing skills in languages and typing, he took two BA degrees (in modern languages and psychology) at Oxford University. He then trained as a clinical psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry (IOP), London, capping this with a PhD on the sources of emotional behaviour.
There are two facts about word learning that everyone accepts. The ﬁrst is that words really do have to be learned. There is controversy over how much conceptual structure and linguistic knowledge is innate, but nobody thinks that this is the case for the speciﬁc mappings between sounds (or signs) and meanings. This is because these mappings vary arbitrarily from culture to culture. No matter how intelligent a British baby is, for instance, she still has to learn, by attending to (...) the language of the people around her, that rabbits are called ‘rabbits’, that sleeping is called ‘sleeping’, and so on. (shrink)
We argue that the dance metaphor does not appropriately characterize language. Indeed, language may be a red herring, distracting us from the intriguing question of the nature of apes' social interactions.
How Children Learn the Meanings of Words (HCLMW) defends the theory that words are learned through sophisticated and early-emerging cognitive abilities that have evolved for other purposes; there is no dedicated mental mechanism that is special to word learning. The commentators raise a number of challenges to this theory: Does it correctly characterize the nature and development of early abilities? Does it attribute too much to children, or too little? Does it only apply to nouns, or can it also explain (...) the acquisition of words such as verbs and determiners? More general issues are discussed as well, including the role of the input, the relationship between words and concepts, and debates over nativism, adaptationism, and modularity. (shrink)
Normal children learn tens of thousands of words, and do so quickly and efficiently, often in highly impoverished environments. In How Children Learn the Meanings of Words, I argue that word learning is the product of certain cognitive and linguistic abilities that include the ability to acquire concepts, an appreciation of syntactic cues to meaning, and a rich understanding of the mental states of other people. These capacities are powerful, early emerging, and to some extent uniquely human, but they are (...) not special to word learning. This proposal is an alternative to the view that word learning is the result of simple associative learning mechanisms, and it rejects as well the notion that children possess constraints, either innate or learned, that are specifically earmarked for word learning. This theory is extended to account for how children learn names for objects, substances, and abstract entities, pronouns and proper names, verbs, determiners, prepositions, and number words. Several related topics are also discussed, including naïve essentialism, children's understanding of representational art, the nature of numerical and spatial reasoning, and the role of words in the shaping of mental life. Key Words: cognitive development; concepts; meaning; semantics; social cognition; syntax; theory of mind; word learning. (shrink)
What would it be like to have never learned English, but instead only to know Hopi, Mandarin Chinese, or American Sign Language? Would that change the way you think? Imagine entirely losing your language, as the result of stroke or trauma. You are aphasic, unable to speak or listen, read or write. What would your thoughts now be like? As the most extreme case, imagine having been raised without any language at all, as a wild child. What—if anything—would it be (...) like to be such a person? Could you be smart; could you reminisce about the past, plan the future? (shrink)
Although our concepts of “Mama,” “milk,” and “mice” have much in common, the suggestion that they are identical in structure in the mind of the prelinguistic child is mistaken. Even infants think about objects as different from substances and appreciate the distinction between kinds (e.g., mice) and individuals (e.g., Mama). Such cognitive capacities exist in other animals as well, and have important adaptive consequences.