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Chapter 7

PSYC 251 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Prototype Theory, Empiricism, Causal Reasoning


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC 251
Professor
Elizabeth Kelley
Chapter
7

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Chapter 7: Conceptual Development
-Concepts: general ideas that organize objects, events, qualities, and relations on the basis of some similarity.
*Infinite ways which objects/events can be similar. Ex. Shapes, material, size, tastes, color, function. *Let us
understand the world and generalize from prior experience. Also tell us how to react emotionally to new
experience (fear dog if bitten by one). Themes:
Nativist/ Empiricist controversies: Do child form all concepts through same learning mechanisms? Or possess
special mechanisms for forming a few particularly important ones?
Nativist: Liz Spelke, Alan Leslie, Karen Wynn
Empiricist: Vladimir Sloutsky, Scott Johnson,
David Rakison and Marianella Casasola
-Innate understanding of basic concept
-Born with sense of fundamental concepts: time, space, numbe
causality, human mind. OR with specialized learning mechan
let them acquire rudimentary understanding of them unusu
and easily.
-Nurture only important beyond the initial level but not for
basic understanding.
-Nature endows infants with only general learning mechanisms:
perceive, associate, generalize, remember.
-Concepts such as time, space, causality, number, minds is fr
exposure to experiences that are relevant.
-Looking time in habituation studies: not sufficient to suppor
conclusions.
*Fundamental concepts: useful in greatest number of situations. 2 groups:
1. Categorize kinds of things: human beings, living things, inanimate objects.
2. Dimensions used to represent experiences: space, time, number, causality.
--Understanding Who or What
Dividing Objects into Categories:
-3 general categories: inanimate objects; people; other animals. *Diff concepts apply to diff types.
Universal concepts: height, weight, color, size…
Living things only: eat, drink, grow, breathes.
People only: read, shop, pondering, talking.
*Forming these general categories allows children to draw accurate inferences about unfamiliar entities.
Hypothesis: child organize their observations of these categories of objects into informal theories.
-Wellman and Gelman: child organize ku of thigns in world into 3 informal theories:
1. Theory of physics (inanimate object)
2. Theory of psychology (people)
3. Theory of bio (other living things).
Innate core but also incorporating, radically transformed by learning processes such as association, observ,
statements of other people.
--These informal theories share 3 charac with formal scientific theories:
1. Identify fundamental units for dividing all objects and events into basic categories.
2. Explain phenomena in terms of a few fundamental principles.
3. Explain events in terms of unobservable cause.
Evident in preschool period…
-Spelke: infants start life with primitive theory of physics: of inanimate objects. (world contains objects in space,
move in response to force, continuous way, can’t occupy same space as another object.
-Wellman and Gelman: 1st psych theory at month ppl’s action reflect desire; st bio theory at 3 yo (ppl and
animals are living things. But not until 7yo they realize plant is too).
Forming category hierarchy: categories organized according to set-subset relations, help them make finer
distinctions among objects within each category. Ex. Furniture/La-Z-boy.
Categorization of objects in infancy:
Occur in 1st month of life. Quinn and Eimas: show series of photo of different breeds of cat3, 4mo habituated.
Look at new cat photo less and less. When shown picture of dog, lion, other, they dishabituated. Thus they saw
cats as a single category, other as different.
-Behl-Chadha: 6mo habituated after seen photo of diff mammals. Dishabituated with photo of bird/fish. They
perceived similarities among mammals and diff between them and bird/fish.
*Perceptual Categorization: grouping together of objects that have similar appearances.
-Categorize along diff perceptual dimensions: color, size, movement. Often based on specific parts rather than
whole. Ex. <18morely mostly on presence of legs = animal; wheels = vehicles.
-Key dimension: Overall shape! 15mo if shown a new object with a specific property (makes sound when
squeezed), they assume objects of same shape but diff size/color also share that property.
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Categorization of objects beyond infancy:
-Grasp individual, also hierarchical and causal relations among categories.
*Category hierarchies: often include 3 levels: and a most general level of living/non-living.
1. Superordinate level: most general level within category hierarchy. Ex. Animal.
2. Subordinate level: Most specific level. Ex. Poodle.
3. Basic level: medium or in-between. Ex: dog. *Child learn this level first. Ex. Tree (before oak, plant).
-Youngster’s basic categories don’t always match adults. Ex. Cars, motorcycles, buses—youngster group tgt=
object with wheels. (ow it went to superordinate? Parents/others use child’s basic level as foundation to explain
the more specific and general categories. (If teaching superordinate- illustrate properties of relevant term with
basic level. Ex. Mammals--- animals too, like foxes, bears, cows, get milk from mom). Parents also refer to basic
level to teach child sub-ordinate level Ex. Belugas = whale.
-Sensitivity of child to different statements: 30o more likely to generalize properties of unfamiliar objects when
heard categorical type statements: Wugs drink milk. Vs. more specific sentences: these wugs drink milk.
*Statement specifying relations among categories of objects= let child use what they already know about basic-
level categories to form superordinate and sublevel categories and decide how to generalize properties.
*Parent’s explanations enhance their conceptual understanding, but learning path also contributed by child.
-Child’s active attempt to understand their experience lead to short-lived but interesting concepts. Ex. Fruit-cup.
*Causal understanding and categorization:
-Krascum and Andrew: told 4- 5-yo about 2 categories of imaginary animals: Wugs and Gillies. Some given
physical descriptions (wug=claw, spike, horn, armour; gillies=wings, big ear, tails, long toes). Other provided
physical + causal story to why they are that. Wug likes to fight, gillies hide in trees. Later show a photo depicting
the two… children heard the story = better at classifying it into right categories. They also rmb the categories
better. Thus understanding cause- effect relations help child learn and remember new categories.
Knowledge of Other people and oneself: Naïve psychology: Commonsensical level of understanding of
other people and oneself. Crucial to normal human functioning, major part of what makes us people. (Chimps
don’t have social reasoning like inferring intentions from behavior like our toddlers. Naïve by age 3.
-Centre of naïve psych are 3 concepts: Desires, beliefs, actions. (why some1 did something?). 3 properties:
1. Refer to invisible mental states: no one can see a desire, belief, or psyc concepts like perception, memory. We
can see beh but can only infer the underlying mental states.
2. Psy concepts linked to one another in cause-effect relations.
3. Develop early in life.
--Debate between Nativist + Empiricist about source of this early psyc understanding:
Nativist: child born with innate basic understanding of human psychology.
Empiricist: experiences w/ other and general info-processing capacities. Evidence supports both views.
Infant’s native psychology
-Infants find people interesting and attend to them, learn a lot about them in 1st year. Imitate facial movements
and not mvmt of inanimate objects. They also prefer watching human body moving instead of others. Infants also
expect humans but not object to engage in self-propelled movement. Ex. Diane Poulin-Dubois: 9mo not surprised
when adult moves in response to another adult’s comments. But surprised when robot does.
-Early interest in human face+body help infants learn about ppl’s behavior: imitating other and form emotional
bonds with them encourage other ppl to interact more with infants, creating additional opportunities for infants
to acquire psych understanding.
-Understanding of intention, desire to actjoint attentionintersubjectivity all emerge late in 1st year and early
2nd year. Thus yo already understand other people’s emotions. Child as young as  offer physical comfort and by
18-20months, comforting comments to unhappy playmates. )nfant’s experience of their own emotions and beh
accompany them helps them understand the emotion accompanying other’s actions.
Development Beyond Infancy Child build on their early-emerging psychological understanding to develop
sophisticated comprehension of self and others and interact with others in increasingly complex ways. (2 areas-
understand other’s mind +play w/peers.
1. -Growth of a theory of mind:
Naïve psych + strong interest in other= foundation for theory of mind: organized understanding of how mental
processes (intention, desire, belief, perception, emotion) influence behavior.
Ex. Preschooler’s—include ku that beliefs often originate in perceptions. seeing an event/hearing someone
describe it, that desires can originate either from physio states (hunger/pain) or from psycho states (wanting to
see friend). Desires + beliefs produce actions.
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-1yo: understand connection between ppl’s desires and their actions.
Phillip, Wellman, Spelke: 1yo saw experimenter look at one of 2 stuffed kitten and say in joyful voice. Then 2s
later, hold the same kitty or a different one. 1yo looked longer if experimenter was holding the other kitty =
expected him to want to hold kitty that just excited her much and were surprised she was holding the other one.
8mo: looked for similar amt of time regardless of which kitty was held.
mo: use info about person’s earlier desires to predict later desires, but only if earlier and later circumstances
are identical.
-2yo: desire leads to action is firmly established.
Can now predict that characters in stories will act in accord with their own desires (even if they differ from
child’s preferences. But dunno beliefs also influence behavior.
-3yo: some understanding between beliefs and action. why.. cuz he believes/thinks the dog ran away.
Also have some ku of how beliefs originate: seeing an event produces beliefs about it. Being next to someone who
can see the event does not. Understanding of relation between beliefs and action is limited: false-belief problem.
---Another person believes something true that the child knows is false. Will child think the other person will act
with own false belief or child’s right belief?
Ex. Preschoolers shown a box normally with smarties and has photo of candy on it. Asked what’s inside? Child
answer Smarties. Open box and found ther’s pencil instead. When asked what other child would say= answer
smarties. Large majority of yo claim they always knew what was in the box, predict if another child hown the
box, the child would also believe the box contained pencils. yo’s response show they have difficulty
understanding other ppl act on their own beliefs, even when those beliefs are false).
False-belief problem found in CAN, )ndia, Peru, Thailand, Samoa… performance improved from -5yo.
Consistence of performance across different societies.
-3yo can succeed if task presented in facilitative way: play trick on another child. Assuming role of deceiver and
hiding pencils in Smarties box helps yo see the situation from the other child’s perspective and will answer
smarties.
-Some of deve is dependent on specific experiences: 14yo with experience ACTING in plays= greater
understanding of other ppl’s thinking. Other types of arts education music, visual didn’t show gains.
2. Explaining the development of theory of mind- Deve in age 2-5yo.
-Nativist: existence of a theory of mind module TOMM. hypothesized brain mechanism devoted to
understanding other human beings. (typical child in typical environ= TOMM matures in 1st 5yrs). Cite evidence
from brain-imaging studies showing some areas are active in representing beliefs across different tasks, and
areas are diff from those involved in other complex cognitive processesex. understanding grammar.
-Further evidence supporting TOMM: autistic ASD children: great difficulty with false-belief problems and
understanding ppl more generally. Atypical size of certain brain areas crucial for understanding ppl.
-Empiricist: psyc understanding is from interactions with other people. Astington + Jenkins: preschoolers with
siblings outperform peers on false-belief tasks. Strongest if siblings are older or of the opp.sex (interacting with
ppl whose interests, desires, motives are diff from own broadens child’s understanding of the mind. Thus child
with ASD not interact much with other is a major contributor to difficulty in understanding others.
-a 3rd view: Empiricist stance but focus growth of general info-processing skills as essential to understanding
other people’s minds: understanding of false-belief problems linked w/their ability to reason about complex
counterfactual statements + ability to inhibit own behavioral propensities when necessary.
-False-belief prob require child to predict what a person would do on basis of a counterfactual belief. The ability
of inhibit beh propensities is important because fbp also require suppress the assumption that the person would
act on the truth of the situation. *Typical child<4yo and w/ASD lack info-processing skills needed.
*All 3 exp has merits. Tgt, all child achieve basic useful theory of mind by age 5.
3. The growth of play: Play= act. Pursued for own sake, no motivation other than enjoyment they bring. Early
ones= solitary. As und of other ppl increase, play become more social and more complex.
-18mo: Pretend Play. make-believe activities in which child create new symbolic relations. Act if they were in
diff sitautions.object substitution: ignore many of a play objects characteristic so they can pretend it’s
something else. Ex. Cylindrical wooden block = bottle and pretend to drink from it. Or a soap dish=boat and float
it on water while taking bath.
-2+1/2yo: sociodramatic playpretend play where they enact miniature dramas w/ other child/adults. Ex.
Mother comforting baby, doc helping sick child. More complex more social than object sub. Tea party ritual.
*More sophisticated if playing with parent/older sibling who can scaffold the play sequence then w/ peer. Such
scaffolding= opportunities for learning, esp improving story-telling skills.
-Elementary yo: play more complex+social. Include activities like sport, board games w/ conventional rules.
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