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Category label effects on Chinese children's inductive inferences: Modulation by perceptual detail and category specificity


Inductive generalization of novel properties to same-category or similar-looking objects was studied in Chinese preschool children. The effects of category labels on generalizations were investigated by comparing basic-level labels, superordinate-level labels, and a control phrase applied to three kinds of stimulus materials: colored photographs (Experiment 1), realistic line drawings (Experiment 2), and cartoon-like line drawings (Experiment 3). No significant labeling effects were found for photos and realistic drawings, but there were significant effects for cartoon-like drawings. Children made mostly (>70%) category-based inferences about photographs whether or not labels were provided (Experiment 1). Children showed a bias toward category-based inferences about realistic drawings (Experiment 2) but did so only when labels were provided. Finally, children made mostly appearance-based generalizations for cartoon-like drawings (Experiment 3). However, labels (basic or superordinate level) reduced appearance-based responses. Labeling effects did not depend on having identical labels; however, identical superordinate labels were more effective than different basic-level labels for the least informative stimuli (i.e., cartoons). Thus, labels sometimes confirm the identity of ambiguous items. This evidence of labeling effects in Mandarin-speaking Chinese children extends previous findings beyond English-speaking children and shows that the effects are not narrowly culture and language specific. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.

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