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Naming Patterns and Inductive Inference: The Case of Birds

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Although past research demonstrated that online presentation of labels plays a role in inductive inference few studies have shown that naming practices affect stable category representations that enter into inductive judgments. In this study we provide evidence for a relationship between naming and inductive inference by examining Polish and Spanish speakers’ inferences within the taxonomic class Aves. Birds in Polish are named with one label, ptak, while Spanish uses two labels, ave and pájaro. Size is the feature that determines whether Spanish speakers label a bird as ave or pájaro. As a result, compared to Polish speakers, Spanish speakers attach higher weight to bird size. This is evidenced by the fact that Spanish speakers’ perception of strength of inferences from birds decreases more strongly as a function of size dissimilarity between premise and conclusion. The hypothesis that feature weighting mediates in the influence of naming on induction is supported by the cross-linguistic differences in perceptions of animal similarity. The set of findings reported here contributes to the understanding of inductive inference and the relationship between language and thought.

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