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Psychological Science


Children's questions may reveal a great deal about the characteristics of objects they consider to be conceptually important. Thirty-two preschool children were given opportunities to ask questions about unfamiliar artifacts and animals. The children asked ambiguous questions such as “What is it?” about artifacts and animals alike. However, they were more likely to ask about the functions of artifacts, but about category membership, food choices, and typical locations of animals. They never asked questions about either artifacts or animals that would be considered inappropriate by adults. The results indicate that children hold different expectations about the types of information important for categorizing living and artifact kinds. Young children conceive of artifacts in terms of functions, but conceive of animals in terms of biologically appropriate characteristics. Such results speak to debates about the role of function in children's biological reasoning and to accounts of children's artifact concepts.


This work is a preprint that has been provided to PubMed Central courtesy of the Association of Psychological Science and SAGE Publications.

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