Six-month-old infants discriminate between large sets of objects on the basis of numerosity when other extraneous variables are controlled, provided that the sets to be discriminated differ by a large ratio (8 vs. 16 but not 8 vs. 12). The capacities to represent approximate numerosity found in adult animals and humans evidently develop in human infants prior to language and symbolic counting.
Much research on cognitive development focuses either on early-emerging domain-specific knowledge or domain-general learning mechanisms. However, little research examines how these sources of knowledge interact. Previous research suggests that young infants can make inferences from samples to populations (Xu & Garcia, 2008) and 11- to 12.5-month-old infants can integrate psychological and physical knowledge in probabilistic reasoning (Teglas, Girotto, Gonzalez, & Bonatti, 2007; Xu & Denison, 2009). Here, we ask whether infants can integrate a physical constraint of immobility into a statistical (...) inference mechanism. Results from three experiments suggest that, first, infants were able to use domain-specific knowledge to override statistical information, reasoning that sometimes a physical constraint is more informative than probabilistic information. Second, we provide the first evidence that infants are capable of applying domain-specific knowledge in probabilistic reasoning by using a physical constraint to exclude one set of objects while computing probabilities over the remaining sets. (shrink)
Individual choices are commonly taken to manifest personal preferences. The present study investigated whether social and statistical cues influence young children's inferences about the generalizability of preferences. Preschoolers were exposed to either 1 or 2 demonstrators’ selections of objects. The selected objects constituted 18%, 50%, or 100% of all available objects. We found that children took a single demonstrator's choices as indicative only of his or her personal preference. However, when 2 demonstrators made the same selection, then children inferred that (...) it generalized to other agents of the same kind as the original demonstrator's, but not to agents of a different kind. Lastly, only when both demonstrators blatantly violated random selection (i.e., in the 18% condition) did children generalize the preference even to an agent of a different kind. Thus, from a young age, social and statistical cues inform children's naïve sociology. (shrink)
In the current study, late Chinese–English bilinguals performed a facial expression identification task with emotion words in the task-irrelevant dimension, in either their first language or second language. The investigation examined the automatic access of the emotional content in words appearing in more than one language. Significant congruency effects were present for both L1 and L2 emotion word processing. Furthermore, the magnitude of emotional face-word Stroop effect in the L1 task was greater as compared to the L2 task, indicating that (...) in L1 participants could access the emotional information in words in a more reliable manner. In summary, these findings provide more support for the automatic access of emotional information in words in the bilinguals’ two languages as well as attenuated emotionality of L2 processing. (shrink)
I make two points in this commentary on Carey (2009). First, it may be too soon to conclude that core cognition is innate. Recent advances in computational cognitive science and developmental psychology suggest possible mechanisms for developing inductive biases. Second, there is another possible answer to Fodor's challenge – if concepts are merely mental tokens, then cognitive scientists should spend their time on developing a theory of belief fixation instead.
In order to account for how children can generalize words beyond a very limited set of labeled examples, Bloom's proposal of word learning requires two extensions: a better understanding of the “general learning and memory abilities” involved, and a principled framework for integrating multiple conflicting constraints on word meaning. We propose a framework based on Bayesian statistical inference that meets both of those needs.
Perhaps in addition to language being a potential medium of domain-general thought, as suggested by Carruthers, language may also play another role in conceptual development: Words are “essence placeholders.” Evidence is presented from studies on categorization, object individuation, and inductive inference in infancy. The assumption that words are essence placeholders may be a mechanism by which infants acquire kind concepts.
Rational constructivism is one of the leading theories in developmental psychology. But it is not a purely psychological theory: rational constructivism also makes a number of substantial epistemological claims about both the nature of human rationality and several normative principles that fall squarely into the ambit of epistemology. The aim of this paper is to clarify and defend both theses and several other epistemological claims, as they represent the essential epistemological dimensions of rational constructivism.
We applaud Millikan's psychologically plausible version of the causal theory of reference. Her proposal offers a significant clarification of the much-debated relation between concepts and beliefs, and suggests positive directions for future empirical studies of conceptual development. However, Millikan's revision of the causal theory may leave us with no generally satisfying account of concept individuation in the mind.