Psychological essentialism is an intuitive folk belief positing that certain categories have a non-obvious inner “essence” that gives rise to observable features. Although this belief most commonly characterizes natural kind categories, I argue that psychological essentialism can also be extended in important ways to artifact concepts. Specifically, concepts of individual artifacts include the non-obvious feature of object history, which is evident when making judgments regarding authenticity and ownership. Classic examples include famous works of art (e.g., the Mona Lisa is authentic (...) because of its provenance), but ordinary artifacts likewise receive value from their history (e.g., a worn and tattered blanket may have special value if it was one’s childhood possession). Moreover, in some cases, object history may be thought to have causal effects on individual artifacts, much as an animal essence has causal effects. I review empirical support for these claims and consider the implications for both artifact concepts and essentialism. This perspective suggests that artifact concepts cannot be contained in a theoretical framework that focuses exclusively on similarity or even function. Furthermore, although there are significant differences between essentialism of natural kinds and essentialism of artifact individuals, the commonalities suggest that psychological essentialism may not derive from folk biology but instead may reflect more domain-general perspectives on the world. (shrink)
When do descriptive regularities become prescriptive norms? We examined children's and adults' use of group regularities to make prescriptive judgments, employing novel groups that engaged in morally neutral behaviors. Participants were introduced to conforming or non-conforming individuals. Children negatively evaluated non-conformity, with negative evaluations declining with age. These effects were replicable across competitive and cooperative intergroup contexts and stemmed from reasoning about group regularities rather than reasoning about individual regularities. These data provide new insights into children's group concepts and have (...) important implications for understanding the development of stereotyping and norm enforcement. (shrink)
Generic noun phrases (e.g. 'bats live in caves') provide a window onto human concepts. They refer to categories as 'kinds rather than as sets of individuals. Although kind concepts are often assumed to be universal, generic expression varies considerably across languages. For example, marking of generics is less obligatory and overt in Mandarin than in English. How do universal conceptual biases interact with language-specific differences in how generics are conveyed? In three studies, we examined adults' generics in English and Mandarin (...) Chinese. The data include child-directed speech from caregivers interacting with their 19-23-month-old children. Examples of generics include: 'baby birds eat worms' (English) and da4 lao3shu3 yao3 bu4 yao3 ren2 ('do big rats bite people or not?') (Mandarin). Generic noun phrases were reliably identified in both languages, although they occurred more than twice as frequently in English as in Mandarin. In both languages, generic usage was domain-specific, with generic noun phrases used most frequently to refer to animals. This domain effect was specific to generics, as non-generic noun phrases were used most frequently for artifacts in both languages. In sum, we argue for universal properties of 'kind' concepts that are expressed with linguistically different constructions. However, the frequency of expression may be influenced by the manner in which generics are expressed in the language. (shrink)
The use of Big Data—however the term is defined—involves a wide array of issues and stakeholders, thereby increasing numbers of complex decisions around issues including data acquisition, use, and sharing. Big Data is becoming a significant component of practice in an ever-increasing range of disciplines; however, since it is not a coherent “discipline” itself, specific codes of conduct for Big Data users and researchers do not exist. While many institutions have created, or will create, training opportunities to prepare people to (...) work in and around Big Data, insufficient time, space, and thought have been dedicated to training these people to engage with the ethical, legal, and social issues in this new domain. Since Big Data practitioners come from, and work in, diverse contexts, neither a relevant professional code of conduct nor specific formal ethics training are likely to be readily available. This normative paper describes an approach to conceptualizing ethical reasoning and integrating it into training for Big Data use and research. Our approach is based on a published framework that emphasizes ethical reasoning rather than topical knowledge. We describe the formation of professional community norms from two key disciplines that contribute to the emergent field of Big Data: computer science and statistics. Historical analogies from these professions suggest strategies for introducing trainees and orienting practitioners both to ethical reasoning and to a code of professional conduct itself. We include two semester course syllabi to strengthen our thesis that codes of conduct can be harnessed to support the development of ethical reasoning in, and a sense of professional identity among, Big Data practitioners. (shrink)
Generic statements express generalizations about categories. Current theories suggest that people should be especially inclined to accept generics that involve threatening information. However, previous tests of this claim have focused on generics about non-human categories, which raises the question of whether this effect applies as readily to human categories. In Experiment 1, adults were more likely to accept generics involving a threatening property for artifacts, but this negativity bias did not also apply to human categories. Experiment 2 examined an alternative (...) hypothesis for this result, and Experiments 3 and 4 served as conceptual replications of the first experiment. Experiment 5 found that even preschoolers apply generics differently for humans and artifacts. Finally, Experiment 6 showed that these effects reflect differences between human and non-human categories more generally, as adults showed a negativity bias for categories of non-human animals, but not for categories of humans. These findings suggest the presence of important, early-emerging domain differences in people's judgments about generics. (shrink)
We propose that there is a powerful human disposition to track the actions and possessions of agents. In two experiments, 3-year-olds and adults viewed sets of objects, learned a new fact about one of the objects in each set , and were queried about either the taught fact or an unrelated dimension immediately after a spatiotemporal transformation, and after a delay. Adults uniformly tracked object identity under all conditions, whereas children tracked identity more when taught ownership versus labeling information, and (...) only regarding the taught fact . These findings suggest that the special attention that children and adults pay to agents readily extends to include inanimate objects. That young children track an object's history, despite their reliance on surface features on many cognitive tasks, suggests that unobservable historical features are foundational in human cognition. (shrink)
This set of seven experiments examines reasoning about the inheritance and acquisition of physical properties in preschoolers, undergraduates, and biology experts. Participants (N = 390) received adoption vignettes in which a baby animal was born to one parent but raised by a biologically unrelated parent, and they judged whether the offspring would have the same property as the birth or rearing parent. For each vignette, the animal parents had contrasting values on a physical property dimension (e.g., the birth parent had (...) a short tail; the rearing parent had a long tail). Depending on the condition, the distinct properties had distinct functions (“function-predictive”) were associated with distinct habitats (“habitat-predictive”), or had no implications (“non-predictive”). Undergraduates' bias to view properties as inherited from the birth parent was reduced in the function- and habitat-predictive conditions. This result indicates a purpose-based view of inheritance, whereby animals can acquire properties that serve a purpose in their environment. This stance was not found in experts or preschoolers. We discuss the results in terms of how undergraduates' purpose-based inheritance reasoning develops and relates to larger-scale misconceptions about Darwinian evolutionary processes, and implications for biology education. (shrink)
Bullot & Reber (B&R) provide compelling evidence that sensitivity to context, history, and design stance are crucial to theories of art appreciation. We ask how these ideas relate to broader aspects of human cognition. Further open questions concern how psychological essentialism contributes to art appreciation and how essentialism regarding created artifacts (such as art) differs from essentialism in other domains.
Although traditional economic models posit that money is fungible, psychological research abounds with examples that deviate from this assumption. Across eight experiments, we provide evidence that people construe physical currency as carrying traces of its moral history. In Experiments 1 and 2, people report being less likely to want money with negative moral history. Experiments 3–5 provide evidence against an alternative account that people's judgments merely reflect beliefs about the consequences of accepting stolen money rather than moral sensitivity. Experiment 6 (...) examines whether an aversion to stolen money may reflect contamination concerns, and Experiment 7 indicates that people report they would donate stolen money, thereby counteracting its negative history with a positive act. Finally, Experiment 8 demonstrates that, even in their recall of actual events, people report a reduced tendency to accept tainted money. Altogether, these findings suggest a robust tendency to evaluate money based on its moral history, even though it is designed to participate in exchanges that effectively erase its origins. (shrink)
Number concepts must support arithmetic inference. Using this principle, it can be argued that the integer concept of exactly ONE is a necessary part of the psychological foundations of number, as is the notion of the exact equality - that is, perfect substitutability. The inability to support reasoning involving exact equality is a shortcoming in current theories about the development of numerical reasoning. A simple innate basis for the natural number concepts can be proposed that embodies the arithmetic principle, supports (...) exact equality and also enables computational compatibility with real- or rational-valued mental magnitudes. (shrink)
There is no satisfactory account for the general phenomenon of confabulation, for the following reasons: (1) confabulation occurs in a number of pathological and non-pathological conditions; (2) impairments giving rise to confabulation are likely to have different neural bases; and (3) there is no unique theory explaining the aetiology of confabulations. An epistemic approach to defining confabulation could solve all of these issues, by focusing on the surface features of the phenomenon. However, existing epistemic accounts are unable to offer sufficient (...) conditions for confabulation and tend to emphasise only its epistemic disadvantages. In this paper, we argue that a satisfactory epistemic account of confabulation should also acknowledge those features which are (potentially) epistemically advantageous. For example, confabulation may allow subjects to exercise some control over their own cognitive life which is instrumental to the construction or preservation of their sense of self. (shrink)
This article defends a continuity position. Infants can abstract numerosity and young preschool children do respond appropriately to tasks that tap their ability to use a count and cardinal value and/or arithmetic principles. Active use of a nonverbal domain of arithmetic serves to enable the child to find relevant data to build knowledge about the language and use rules of numerosity and quantity.
This chapter examines associationist models of cognitive development, focusing on the development of naming in young children — the process by which young children learn of construct the meanings of words and concepts. It presents two early-emerging insights that children possess about the nature of naming. These insights are: essentialism: certain words map onto nonobvious, underlying causal features, and genericity: certain expressions map onto generic kinds as opposed to particular instances. The chapter discusses empirical studies with preschool children to support (...) the contention that essentialism and genericity emerge early in development and that neither insight is directly taught. It also explores the question of whether these insights can be derived wholly from a direct reading of cues that are ‘out there’in the world, and concludes that they cannot. The implications of these findings for innateness are then considered. It is argued that both essentialism and genericity provide cues regarding plausible candidates for innate conceptual knowledge in children. (shrink)
Generic statements express generalizations about categories and present a unique semantic profile that is distinct from quantified statements. This paper reports two studies examining the development of children's intuitions about the semantics of generics and how they differ from statements quantified by all, most, and some. Results reveal that, like adults, preschoolers recognize that generics have flexible truth conditions and are capable of representing a wide range of prevalence levels; and interpret novel generics as having near-universal prevalence implications. Results further (...) show that by age 4, children are beginning to differentiate the meaning of generics and quantified statements; however, even 7- to 11-year-olds are not adultlike in their intuitions about the meaning of most-quantified statements. Overall, these studies suggest that by preschool, children interpret generics in much the same way that adults do; however, mastery of the semantics of quantified statements follows a more protracted course. (shrink)
Some photographs, more than mere representations, are ethical commands, calling us to respond to human suffering. Photos of Abu Graib, like iconic photos of Vietnam, called us to a posture of care, and confronted us with ourselves, with our national domination, and with how we represent ourselves to the world. This article, drawing on Kittay (1999), Butler (2004), and Levinas (1961, 1974, 1985), attempts to untangle the relation among care, domination, and representation. Implications for philosophers and journalists are suggested.
In this article we use a hybrid methodology to better understand the skilful performance of sports teams as an exemplar of distributed cognition. We highlight key differences between a team of individual experts and an expert team, and outline the kinds of shared characteristics likely to be found in an expert team. We focus on the way that shared knowledge contributes to expert team performance. In particular, we suggest that certain kinds of shared knowledge and shared skill, potentially developed through (...) a team’s history of playing and training together, facilitate successful coordination. These kinds of shared knowledge and skill may be less developed in a team of experts without a shared history. Exploring the expert performance of sports teams informs our understanding of distributed cognition and collaboration more generally and creates avenues for further philosophical and empirical investigation. (shrink)