An investigation into children’s inductive reasoning strategies:What drives the development of category induction?


In a series of studies, I investigated the developmental changes in children’s inductive reasoning strategy, methodological manipulations affecting the trajectory, and driving mechanisms behind the development of category induction. I systematically controlled the nature of the stimuli used, and employed a triad paradigm in which perceptual cues were directly pitted against category membership, to explore under which circumstances children used perceptual or category induction. My induction tasks were designed for children aged 3-9 years old using biologically plausible novel items. In Study 1, I tested 264 children. Using a wide age range allowed me to systematically investigate the developmental trajectory of induction. I also created two degrees of perceptual distractor – high and low – and explored whether the degree of perceptual similarity between target and test items altered children’s strategy preference. A further 52 children were tested in Study 2, to examine whether children showing a perceptual-bias were in fact basing their choice on maturation categories. A gradual transition was observed from perceptual to category induction. However, this transition could not be due to the inability to inhibit high perceptual distractors as children of all ages were equally distracted. Children were also not basing their strategy choices on maturation categories. In Study 3, I investigated category structure (featural vs. relational category rules) and domain (natural vs. artefact) on inductive preference. I tested 403 children. Each child was assigned to either the featural or relational condition, and completed both a natural kind and an artefact task. A further 98 children were tested in Study 4, on the effect of using stimuli labels during the tasks. I observed the same gradual transition from perceptual to category induction preference in Studies 3 and 4. This pattern was stable across domains, but children developed a category-bias one year later for relational categories, arguably due to the greater demands on executive function (EF) posed by these stimuli. Children who received labels during the task made significantly more category choices than those who did not receive labels, possibly due to priming effects. Having investigated influences affecting the developmental trajectory, I continued by exploring the driving mechanism behind the development of category induction. In Study 5, I tested 60 children on a battery of EF tasks as well as my induction task. None of the EF tasks were able to predict inductive variance, therefore EF development is unlikely to be the driving factor behind the transition. Finally in Study 6, I divided 252 children into either a comparison group or an intervention group. The intervention group took part in an interactive educational session at Twycross Zoo about animal adaptations. Both groups took part in four induction tasks, two before and two a week after the zoo visits. There was a significant increase in the number of category choices made in the intervention condition after the zoo visit, a result not observed in the comparison condition. This highlights the role of knowledge in supporting the transition from perceptual to category induction. I suggest that EF development may support induction development, but the driving mechanism behind the transition is an accumulation of knowledge, and an appreciation for the importance of category membership.

Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
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Institution: Aston University
Uncontrolled Keywords: child development,inductive reasoning,interactive education,executive function
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2023 08:40
Date Deposited: 09 May 2012 09:23
Completed Date: 2011-07
Authors: Badger, Julia


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