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Dev Psychol. 1997 May;33(3):396-407.

By land or by sea: the role of perceptual similarity in infants' categorization of animals.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242-1407, USA.


In 3 experiments, the authors used an object-examining task to investigate the role of perceptual similarity in infants' categorization. In Experiment 1, infants were familiarized with a set of either perceptually similar or perceptually variable exemplars from 1 category and tested with novel exemplars from both categories. Ten-month-olds did not respond to the category in either condition, and 13-month-olds responded categorically in both conditions but somewhat differently in the 2 conditions. Experiment 2 showed that when 10-month-olds were familiarized with similar exemplars but not with variable exemplars, they responded to the categorical distinction when given tests with typical exemplars. Experiment 3 established that 10-month-olds could differentiate among the exemplars. These results suggest that the perceptual similarity of the exemplars influences infants' recognition of categorical distinctions.

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