Categorization based on shared knowledge


Young children, much like adults, possess a rudimentary understanding of social groups and categories, but do not pay attention to nearly as many distinctions that separate us from each others, than we, adults do. In this study, we show that one of the things they are looking for in categorizating others is whether another person’s behavior conforms to the cultural conventions.

In this study, we were able to show that 2-year-old children make inferences about the group membership of another person based on cues of sharing knowledge. We showed children videos depicting a person performing simple tool-using actions. Half of the children saw actions that were nothing out of the ordinary (eating a few bites with a fork), while the other half were shown that person does not keep to the cultural norms (using the fork to brush his hair). In the critical phase of the experiment, children were presented with two photographs: one of the person in the demonstration phase and one of a stranger who was nonetheless the same in age and sex. During this, a text was played from the speakers that were either in a foreign language or in Hungarian. We wanted to see whether children would be more likely to associate the weird behavior with a foreign language than the conventional behavior. Our results confirmed this prediction as shown by the fact that children directed their attention to the person appearing in the demonstration phase upon hearing a foreign language but only when he had performed unconventional actions. This indicates that in this case, they expected him to be the source of the sound.


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