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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Bridging cultural and cognitive perspectives on similarity reasoning


Is a cow more closely related to grass or to a chicken? Responses vary by culture and age, among other factors. Those from western societies (or independent-leaning regions within interdependent non-western societies) are more likely to endorse the taxonomic match, the chicken, over the thematic match, grass (Chiu, 1972; Talhelm et al., 2014). This preference has been documented -- largely in western cultures -- to increase over development (e.g., Smiley & Brown, 1979). While neither development nor culture occur independently of the other, comparisons across these areas are problematic. We address one potential barrier to comparing cultural and developmental research using this classic paradigm -- stimulus format -- and show that the use of text (versus image) stimuli can bias participants toward taxonomic responding in some contexts. We present stimuli designed for cross-cultural use with children and adults and document country, regional, and demographic variation across the US and Italy.

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