•  264
    Differences in the Evaluation of Generic Statements About Human and Non‐Human Categories
    with Arber Tasimi, Andrei Cimpian, and Joshua Knobe
    Cognitive Science 41 (7): 1934-1957. 2017.
    Generic statements express generalizations about categories. Current theories suggest that people should be especially inclined to accept generics that involve threatening information. However, previous tests of this claim have focused on generics about non-human categories, which raises the question of whether this effect applies as readily to human categories. In Experiment 1, adults were more likely to accept generics involving a threatening property for artifacts, but this negativity bias di…Read more
  •  86
    Generic Statements Require Little Evidence for Acceptance but Have Powerful Implications
    with Andrei Cimpian and Amanda C. Brandone
    Cognitive Science 34 (8): 1452-1482. 2010.
    Generic statements (e.g., “Birds lay eggs”) express generalizations about categories. In this paper, we hypothesized that there is a paradoxical asymmetry at the core of generic meaning, such that these sentences have extremely strong implications but require little evidence to be judged true. Four experiments confirmed the hypothesized asymmetry: Participants interpreted novel generics such as “Lorches have purple feathers” as referring to nearly all lorches, but they judged the same novel gene…Read more
  •  68
  •  64
    Artifacts and Essentialism
    Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (3): 449-463. 2013.
    Psychological essentialism is an intuitive folk belief positing that certain categories have a non-obvious inner “essence” that gives rise to observable features. Although this belief most commonly characterizes natural kind categories, I argue that psychological essentialism can also be extended in important ways to artifact concepts. Specifically, concepts of individual artifacts include the non-obvious feature of object history, which is evident when making judgments regarding authenticity an…Read more
  •  60
  •  55
    Why essences are essential in the psychology of concepts
    with Woo-Kyoung Ahn, Charles Kalish, Douglas L. Medin, Christian Luhmann, Scott Atran, John D. Coley, and Patrick Shafto
    Cognition 82 (1): 59-69. 2001.
  •  52
    Memory Errors Reveal a Bias to Spontaneously Generalize to Categories
    with Shelbie L. Sutherland, Andrei Cimpian, and Sarah-Jane Leslie
    Cognitive Science 39 (5): 1021-1046. 2015.
    Much evidence suggests that, from a young age, humans are able to generalize information learned about a subset of a category to the category itself. Here, we propose that—beyond simply being able to perform such generalizations—people are biased to generalize to categories, such that they routinely make spontaneous, implicit category generalizations from information that licenses such generalizations. To demonstrate the existence of this bias, we asked participants to perform a task in which ca…Read more
  •  51
    Dirty Money: The Role of Moral History in Economic Judgments
    with Arber Tasimi
    Cognitive Science 41 (S3). 2017.
    Although traditional economic models posit that money is fungible, psychological research abounds with examples that deviate from this assumption. Across eight experiments, we provide evidence that people construe physical currency as carrying traces of its moral history. In Experiments 1 and 2, people report being less likely to want money with negative moral history. Experiments 3–5 provide evidence against an alternative account that people's judgments merely reflect beliefs about the consequ…Read more
  •  39
    Tracking the Actions and Possessions of Agents
    with Nicholaus S. Noles and Sarah Stilwell
    Topics in Cognitive Science 6 (4): 599-614. 2014.
    We propose that there is a powerful human disposition to track the actions and possessions of agents. In two experiments, 3-year-olds and adults viewed sets of objects, learned a new fact about one of the objects in each set , and were queried about either the taught fact or an unrelated dimension immediately after a spatiotemporal transformation, and after a delay. Adults uniformly tracked object identity under all conditions, whereas children tracked identity more when taught ownership versus …Read more
  •  35
    So It Is, So It Shall Be: Group Regularities License Children's Prescriptive Judgments
    with Steven O. Roberts and Arnold K. Ho
    Cognitive Science 41 (S3). 2017.
    When do descriptive regularities become prescriptive norms? We examined children's and adults' use of group regularities to make prescriptive judgments, employing novel groups that engaged in morally neutral behaviors. Participants were introduced to conforming or non-conforming individuals. Children negatively evaluated non-conformity, with negative evaluations declining with age. These effects were replicable across competitive and cooperative intergroup contexts and stemmed from reasoning abo…Read more
  •  35
    How biological is essentialism
    with Lawrence A. Hirschfeld
    In D. Medin & S. Atran (eds.), Folkbiology, Mit Press. pp. 403--446. 1999.
  •  30
    A cross-linguistic comparison of generic noun phrases in English and Mandarin
    with Twila Tardif
    Cognition 66 (3): 215-248. 1998.
    Generic noun phrases (e.g. 'bats live in caves') provide a window onto human concepts. They refer to categories as 'kinds rather than as sets of individuals. Although kind concepts are often assumed to be universal, generic expression varies considerably across languages. For example, marking of generics is less obligatory and overt in Mandarin than in English. How do universal conceptual biases interact with language-specific differences in how generics are conveyed? In three studies, we examin…Read more
  •  27
    Children and adults commonly produce more generic noun phrases (e.g., birds fly) about animals than artifacts. This may reflect differences in participants’ generic knowledge about specific animals/artifacts (e.g., dogs/chairs), or it may reflect a more general distinction. To test this, the current experiments asked adults and preschoolers to generate properties about novel animals and artifacts (Experiment 1: real animals/artifacts; Experiments 2 and 3: matched pairs of maximally similar, nove…Read more
  •  27
    The role of covariation versus mechanism information in causal attribution
    with Woo-Kyoung Ahn, Charles W. Kalish, and Douglas L. Medin
    Cognition 54 (3): 299-352. 1995.
  •  25
    Who am I? The role of moral beliefs in children's and adults' understanding of identity
    with Larisa Heiphetz, Nina Strohminger, and Liane L. Young
    Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 210-219. 2018.
    Adults report that moral characteristics—particularly widely shared moral beliefs—are central to identity. This perception appears driven by the view that changes to widely shared moral beliefs would alter friendships and that this change in social relationships would, in turn, alter an individual's personal identity. Because reasoning about identity changes substantially during adolescence, the current work tested pre- and post-adolescents to reveal the role that such changes could play in mora…Read more
  •  25
    Insides and essences: Early understandings of the non-obvious
    with Henry M. Wellman
    Cognition 38 (3): 213-244. 1991.
  •  23
    Two insights about naming in the preschool child
    In Peter Carruthers (ed.), The Innate Mind: Structure and Contents, Oxford University Press New York. pp. 198--215. 2005.
    This chapter examines associationist models of cognitive development, focusing on the development of naming in young children — the process by which young children learn of construct the meanings of words and concepts. It presents two early-emerging insights that children possess about the nature of naming. These insights are: essentialism: certain words map onto nonobvious, underlying causal features, and genericity: certain expressions map onto generic kinds as opposed to particular instances.…Read more
  •  23
    Thinking about possibilities
    Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15 (8): 341-342. 2011.
  •  23
    Children's Developing Intuitions About the Truth Conditions and Implications of Novel Generics Versus Quantified Statements
    with Amanda C. Brandone and Jenna Hedglen
    Cognitive Science 39 (4): 711-738. 2015.
    Generic statements express generalizations about categories and present a unique semantic profile that is distinct from quantified statements. This paper reports two studies examining the development of children's intuitions about the semantics of generics and how they differ from statements quantified by all, most, and some. Results reveal that, like adults, preschoolers recognize that generics have flexible truth conditions and are capable of representing a wide range of prevalence levels; and…Read more
  •  21
    Defining essentialism
    Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8 (9): 404-409. 2004.
  •  20
  •  18
    My Heart Made Me Do It: Children's Essentialist Beliefs About Heart Transplants
    with Meredith Meyer, Steven O. Roberts, and Sarah‐Jane Leslie
    Cognitive Science 41 (6): 1694-1712. 2017.
    Psychological essentialism is a folk theory characterized by the belief that a causal internal essence or force gives rise to the common outward behaviors or attributes of a category's members. In two studies, we investigated whether 4- to 7-year-old children evidenced essentialist reasoning about heart transplants by asking them to predict whether trading hearts with an individual would cause them to take on the donor's attributes. Control conditions asked children to consider the effects of tr…Read more
  •  17
    Causal status effect in children's categorization
    with Woo-Kyoung Ahn, Jennifer A. Amsterlaw, Jill Hohenstein, and Charles W. Kalish
    Cognition 76 (2). 2000.
  •  17
    This set of seven experiments examines reasoning about the inheritance and acquisition of physical properties in preschoolers, undergraduates, and biology experts. Participants (N = 390) received adoption vignettes in which a baby animal was born to one parent but raised by a biologically unrelated parent, and they judged whether the offspring would have the same property as the birth or rearing parent. For each vignette, the animal parents had contrasting values on a physical property dimension…Read more