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Do Lions Have Manes? For Children, Generics Are About Kinds Rather Than Quantities

Authors


  • This research was supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to Amanda C. Brandone, University of Illinois funds to Andrei Cimpian, Princeton University funds to Sarah-Jane Leslie, and NICHD Grant HD-36043 and NSF Grant BCS-0817128 to Susan A. Gelman. We are grateful to the children, parents, and teachers at the UM Children’s Center for participating in this research. We also thank Kristin Lang, Jenna Hedglen, Ben Boldt, Melissa Yako, and the Concepts and Theories in Human Development and UIUC Cognitive Development Labs for assistance in data collection.

concerning this article should be addressed to Amanda Brandone, Department of Psychology, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015. Electronic mail may be sent to acb210@lehigh.edu.

Abstract

Generic statements (e.g., “Lions have manes”) make claims about kinds (e.g., lions as a category) and, for adults, are distinct from quantificational statements (e.g., “Most lions have manes”), which make claims about how many individuals have a given property. This article examined whether young children also understand that generics do not depend purely on quantitative information. Five-year-olds (= 36) evaluated pairs of questions expressing properties that were matched in prevalence but varied in whether adults accept them as generically true (e.g., “Do lions have manes?” [true] vs. “Are lions boys?” [false]). Results demonstrated that children evaluate generics based on more than just quantitative information. Data suggest that even young children recognize that generics make claims about kinds.

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