Learning new categories: Adults tend to use rules while children sometimes rely on family resemblance

Abstract

We conducted an experiment in which children and adults were asked to learn a set of categories for which a single-feature rule (the criterial attribute) or overall family resemblance would allow for perfect performance. Test stimuli were presented after the category was learned and were designed such that the information provided by the rule conflicted with the information provided by the family resemblance structure. We found that adults made significantly more rule-based responses to the test stimuli than did the children. These data suggest that although adults default to verbal rules under standard learning conditions, children may rely instead on an implicit, non-verbal system to learn the same categories.


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