Basic-level categorization and part-whole perception in children

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Tversky & Hemenway’s (1984) claim that parts are central to basic-level categorization suggests that parts should play an important role in the formation of basic-level categories by young children. There is, however, a prevailing claim that young children do not attend to parts, but treat objects as integral wholes. The present study attempted to compare children’s ability to categorize at the basic level and their sensitivity to parts and part-whole relations. Nursery school children, kindergarteners, first- and second-graders performed three tasks: (1) sorting objects into basic-level categories, (2) sorting parts that belong to the same object, and (3) matching parts with basic-level objects. Children’s performance on parts sorting and part-object matching lagged behind their objects sorting, suggesting that attention to parts per se does not seem to be essential for children’s basic-level categorization. Also, by 5 years of age, children showed sensitivity to parts and to part-whole relations, and this sensitivity improved with age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-26
Number of pages4
JournalBulletin of the Psychonomic Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry

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