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Language and Experience Influence Children's Biological Induction

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image of Journal of Cognition and Culture

Children's reasoning about biological concepts is influenced not only by their experiences in the natural world and in their classrooms, but also by the way that these concepts are named. In English, 'animal' can refer either to (a) exclusively non-human animals, or (b) all animate beings (human and non-human animals). In Indonesian, this category of animate beings has no dedicated name. Here, we ask whether this difference in naming has consequences for children's reasoning about humans and non-human animals. Results from English- and Indonesian-speaking children reveals differences in reasoning at age 6, differences that become attenuated by age 9. These results suggest that not only naming practices, but also biologically-relevant formal and informal learning experiences, influence children's reasoning about biological concepts.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, College of the Holy Cross, 1 College Street, Worcester, MA 01610, USA;, Email:; 2: Department of Psychology, Swift Hall 102, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208-2710, USA


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