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James W. Pennebaker, Chair The University of Texas at Austin, SEA 4.212, Austin, TX 78712 • (512) 475-7596

The Effects of Animacy in Categorical Inference in Preschoolers

Fri, March 21, 2014 • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM • SEA Library, 4.244

Speaker:  Lauretta Reeves, Department of Psychology

The use of animacy in category representations has been long-documented in studies of both children and adults.  For example, infants and toddlers have different expectations of animate vs. inanimate objects (Golinkoff, Harding, Carlson-Luden, & Sexton, 1984; Poulin-Dubois, LaPage, & Ferland, 1996), and make different linguistic assumptions about each (e.g., that mainly animate things take proper names, Hall, 1990, 1991, 1993).  “Pseudoanimate” items, such as dolls and robots are a hybrid of animate and inanimate objects; while often made to resemble Living, animate things, their origins and material composition are more similar to that of Non-living, inanimate things.  A series of experiments tested 3-5 year old children’s willingness to transfer internal, external, and behavioral traits from animate (or inanimate) to pseudoanimate exemplars, and vice versa.  Results are analyzed based on the claims of psychological essentialism (Gelman, 2003) vs. a more “piecemeal” approach to concept acquisition and categorical inference (diSessa, 1988; Okita & Schwartz, 2006).


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