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Language is not necessary for color categories

Authors

  • Ozge Ozturk,

    1. Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Language Acquisition Department, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Psychology, Princeton University, USA
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  • Shakila Shayan,

    1. Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Language Acquisition Department, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Ulf Liszkowski,

    1. Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Communication before Language Group, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, The Netherlands
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  • Asifa Majid

    1. Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Language and Cognition Department, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, The Netherlands
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Errata

This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 17, Issue 4, 644, Article first published online: 22 June 2014

Address for correspondence: Ozge Ozturk, Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, New York, NY 10003, USA; Email: ozge.ozturk@nyu.edu

Abstract

The origin of color categories is under debate. Some researchers argue that color categories are linguistically constructed, while others claim they have a pre-linguistic, and possibly even innate, basis. Although there is some evidence that 4–6-month-old infants respond categorically to color, these empirical results have been challenged in recent years. First, it has been claimed that previous demonstrations of color categories in infants may reflect color preferences instead. Second, and more seriously, other labs have reported failing to replicate the basic findings at all. In the current study we used eye-tracking to test 8-month-old infants’ categorical perception of a previously attested color boundary (green–blue) and an additional color boundary (blue–purple). Our results show that infants are faster and more accurate at fixating targets when they come from a different color category than when from the same category (even though the chromatic separation sizes were equated). This is the case for both blue–green and blue–purple. Our findings provide independent evidence for the existence of color categories in pre-linguistic infants, and suggest that categorical perception of color can occur without color language.

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