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Colloquium: Alexander Noyes, Yale University

January 22, 2020 - 3:45pm to 5:00pm
Jordan Hall, Room 041


Title: Flexibility Respresentations of Kinds

Abstract: “Kinds” are richly structured categories that promote prediction and explanation. I examine causal reasoning about kinds; in particular, I ask to what extent children and adults can identify and represent the diverse causal systems that generate them. I first address this question via generic language (e.g., “boys like blue”). I demonstrate that participants interpret generics about a novel category as signaling kindhood. However, I show that participants are flexible with respect to the causal systems they assume generate kinds. That is, participants use property content to adjudicate between candidate causal systems: From biological generics they infer the novel category is a natural kind and from cultural generics they infer the novel category is a socially constructed kind. Next, in studies investigating institutional kinds (e.g., money, teams, and occupations), I demonstrate just how ubiquitous socially constructed kinds are. By middle childhood, children represent diverse institutional kinds as grounded in a community’s collective recognition. These findings challenge alternative theories of kinds and support a surprisingly flexible view of children’s and adult’s concepts.

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Department of Psychology
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