The shape of thought


Address for correspondence: Lori Markson, Department of Psychology, University of California, 3210 Tolman Hall, MC 1650, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA; e-mail:


When children learn the name of a novel object, they tend to extend that name to other objects similar in shape – a phenomenon referred to as the shape bias. Does the shape bias stem from learned associations between names and categories of objects, or does it derive from more general properties of children's understanding of language and the world? We argue here for the second alternative, presenting evidence that the shape bias emerges early in development, is not limited to names, and is intimately related to how children make sense of categories.