Category structure affects the developmental trajectory of children’s inductive inferences for both natural kinds and artefacts

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Inductive reasoning is fundamental to human cognition, yet it remains unclear how we develop this ability and what might influence our inductive choices. We created novel categories in which crucial factors such as domain and category structure were manipulated orthogonally. We trained 403 4-9-year-old children to categorise well-matched natural kind and artefact stimuli with either featural or relational category structure, followed by induction tasks. This wide age range allowed for the first full exploration of the developmental trajectory of inductive reasoning in both domains. We found a gradual transition from perceptual to categorical induction with age. This pattern was stable across domains, but interestingly, children showed a category bias one year later for relational categories. We hypothesise that the ability to use category information in inductive reasoning develops gradually, but is delayed when children need to process and apply more complex category structures.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-229
Number of pages24
JournalThinking and Reasoning
Issue number2
Early online date30 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographic note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Thinking and reasoning on 2014, available online: Funding: ESRC.


  • categorisation, category structure, child development, domain, inductive reasoning

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