A developmental dissociation between category and function judgments about novel artifacts

Margaret Anne Defeyter, Tim German, Jill Hearing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Two studies investigated the relative importance of information about intended design and current use on judgments about the function (Experiment 1) or category (Experiment 2) of novel artifacts in preschool children and adults. Adults assigned function and name on the basis of information about design across all conditions, while children’s decisions about function dissociated from decisions about category. Function judgments (in both 4 and 6-year-olds) were neutral between design and current use, both when the current use was idiosyncratic (e.g. performed by just one agent) and conventional (performed by many people; Experiment 1). By contrast, where category judgments were required for the very same objects (Experiment 2), children named according to design intentions – but only if the alternate function was idiosyncratic. Judging function and assigning category are thus cognitive tasks that draw on different information across development, a fact that should be captured by theories of developing artifact concept structure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-264
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


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