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Dev Sci. 2004 Apr;7(2):185-93.

A test of the generality of perceptually based categories found in infants: attentional differences toward natural kinds by New World monkeys.

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Department of Psychology, Carleton College, Northfield, MN 55057, USA.


A preference to novelty paradigm used to study human infants (Quinn, 2002) examined attention to novel animal pictures at subordinate, basic and superordinate levels in tamarins. First, pairs of pictures were presented in phases, starting with a monkey species (subordinate level) and ending with mammal and dinosaur sets (superordinate levels). After each phase, tests paired novel pictures from the familiarized set with a novel broader category. Look rates toward each picture were coded. Tamarins looked significantly longer at a novel species after being familiarized with a monkey species, a species-specific effect. Subjects attended equivalently to novel primate species after habituation to four monkey species, but looked significantly longer at pictures of mammals, marking a more global-level inclusion and exclusion. Superordinate testing revealed that more novel and diverse sets were differentiated attentionally. The evidence implies that natural categorical representation occurs at an attentional level in primates in ways similar to human infants, and is affected by recent exposure and category variability.

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