How Children And Adults Name Broken Objects: Inferences And Reasoning About Design Intentions In The Categorization Of Artifacts

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Journal Of Cognition And Development


If inferences about the functions intended by object designers guide the way artifacts are categorized, a broken object should still be considered a member of its original category even though it is currently dysfunctional; however, an object that appears to be dysfunctional by design should not be. Such a comparison was arranged in four studies of lexical categorization. Even with novel categories, 10-year-olds and adults preferentially included broken objects, and they did so spontaneously (Study 1). Younger children did not (Studies 1 and 2). However, when probed about the design intentions behind novel objects, 6-year-olds often inferred them correctly and then took intentions into account to categorize (Study 3). In fact, when 4-year-olds named objects derived from familiar categories, even they spontaneously used design intentions to categorize (Study 4). Accordingly, even young children provided some evidence of categorizing artifacts by inferring and reasoning about intended functions.

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