Constraints on the Acquisition of Social Category Concepts

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Constraints on the Acquisition of Social Category Concepts

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Title: Constraints on the Acquisition of Social Category Concepts
Author: Baron, Andrew Scott; Dunham, Yarrow; Banaji, Mahzarin R.; Carey, Susan E.

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Citation: Baron, Andrew Scott, Yarrow Dunham, Mahzarin Banaji, and Susan Carey. 2014. Constraints on the acquisition of social category concepts. Journal of Cognition and Development 15, no. 2: 238–268. doi:10.1080/15248372.2012.742902.
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Abstract: Determining which dimensions of social classification are culturally significant is a developmental challenge. Some suggest this is accomplished by differentially privileging intrinsic visual cues over nonintrinsic cues (Atran, 1990; Gil-White, 2001), whereas others point to the role of noun labels as more general promoters of kind-based reasoning (Bigler & Liben, 2007; Gelman, 2003). A novel groups procedure was employed to examine the independent effects of noun labels and visual cues on social categorization. Experiment 1 demonstrated that in the absence of a visual cue, a noun label supported social categorization among 4-year-olds and 7-year-olds. Experiments 2 and 3 demonstrated that children and adults fail to differentiate between intrinsic and nonintrinsic visual cues to category membership, suggesting that this distinction is not central to the acquisition of social category concepts. Experiments 2 and 3 also showed that in the absence of a shared noun label, visual cues were not sufficient for younger children to form social categories. Experiment 4 ruled out a potential demand characteristic in the previous experiments. Together, these results reveal the primacy of verbal labels over visual cues for social categorization in young children and suggest a developmental change between ages 4 and 7 in the ability to construct new representations of social category concepts.
Published Version: doi:10.1080/15248372.2012.742902
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