Collaborative Research: The Role of Culture and Experience in Children’s Understandings of the Biological World
This will be clear in the papers in various stages of publication. We have found that language affects children’s biological reasoning, especially in younger children. For example, in the Indonesian language there is no sense in which humans can be considered animals. We find that 6-year-old Indonesian children are less likely to generalize a novel fact taught about humans to animals than are English-speaking children (Angorro, et al, submitted). We also have found that children have particular difficult with the concept “alive” and that they understand “living thing” much earlier than they understand “alive” (Leddon et al, in press).
In another line of work we have examined spontaneous name generation by children and adults from an urban community, a rural majority culture community and a rural Native-American community. Urban children and adults primarily generate exotic mammals, especially compared with their rural counter-parts. Rural majority culture children and adults generate more native animals and the tendency to generate native animals increases with age. This trend is more pronounced with our Native American sample and their generation reflects the salience of clan animals. Strikingly, urban children and adults rarely generate native animals that one might see in a city (e.g. pigeons, squirrels). Instead their name generation may reflect the salience of exotic animals in children’s book and other media (Winkler-Rhoads, et al, submitted).
Anggoro, F., Medin, D. & Waxman, S. (submitted). Naming Practices Influence Children’s Biological Induction. /Developmental Psychology/.
Leddon, E. M., Waxman, S.R. & Medin, D.L. (in press) Unmasking “alive:” Children’s appreciation of a concept linking all living things. Journal of Cognition and Development.
Winkler-Rhoades, N., Medin, D. L., Waxman, S. R., & Woodring, J. (submitted). Shaping the semantic structure of the animal category: A role for culture? /Memory and Cognition/.