How specific is the shape bias?

Abstract

Children tend to extend object names on the basis of sameness of shape, rather than size, color, or materialFa tendency that has been dubbed the ‘‘shape bias.’’ Is the shape bias the result of well-learned associations between words and objects? Or does it exist because of a general belief that shape is a good indicator of object category membership? The present three studies addressed this debate by exploring whether the shape bias is specific to naming. In Study 1, 3-year-olds showed the shape bias both when asked to extend a novel name and when asked to select an object of the same kind as a target object. Study 2 found the same shape bias when children were asked to generalize properties relevant to category membership. Study 3 replicated the findings from Study 1 with 2-year-olds. These findings suggest that the shape bias derives from children’s beliefs about object kinds and is not the product of associative learning

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