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)
Tomasello et al. argue that cultural cognition derives from humans' unique motivation to share psychological states. We suggest that what underlies this motivation is children's propensity to seek out the underlying causes of behavior. This propensity, combined with children's competence at it, makes them especially skillful at acquiring the intentional, conventional, and reliable forms that constitute culture.
A qualitative difference between Rules and Similarity in categorization can be described in terms of “commitment”: Rules entail it, Similarity does not. Commitment derives from people's knowledge of a domain, and it is what justifies people's inferences, selective attention, and dismissal of irrelevant information. Studies show that when children have knowledge, they manifest these aspects of commitment, thus overcoming Similarity.