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NeoconstructivismThe New Science of Cognitive Development$
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Scott Johnson

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195331059

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331059.001.0001

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Development of Inductive Inference in Infancy

Development of Inductive Inference in Infancy

(p.233) CHAPTER 12 Development of Inductive Inference in Infancy

David H. Rakison

Jessica B. Cicchino

Oxford University Press

This chapter challenges the predominant “top-down” view of early inductive inference. According to this view, induction and categorization by infants as young as 9 to 11 months of age is based on abstract knowledge about the properties of things that is acquired through specialized mechanisms, modules, or innate principles. This perspective is contested both on theoretical and empirical grounds. First, it is proposed that infants' concepts for objects and entities are generated via general rather than specific mechanisms. As a corollary of this view, it is argued that early knowledge about the properties of things in the world involves associative links between specific surface features and those properties, and that such representations are not in place until the middle or end of the second year of life. Second, it is argued that care must be taken in interpreting infants' behavior within the inductive generalization procedure. In particular, (1) infants' behavior in the task is not always driven by knowledge acquired prior to arriving at the laboratory; and (2) the basis for induction for any property must be studied before conclusions can be drawn about the nature and content of infants' concepts. In support of these views, data is provided from inductive generalization studies with 14- to 26-month-olds, which show that infants are influenced by the model exemplar used by the experimenter, and that perceptual features—such as legs and wheels— act as the basis for early induction for motion properties.

Keywords:   infants, inductive inference, inductive generalization

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