Inductive Selectivity in Children’s Cross-Classified Concepts


  • This research was supported by NICHD Grant R03 HD055222-02. I am extremely grateful to Gregory Murphy and Cameron Gordon for discussions regarding this research as well as Tess Young, Lani Girgis, Jamie Chaffman, and Krista Cassidy for their dedicated research assistance. I also thank the schools and families who participated in this research.

concerning this article should be addressed to Simone P. Nguyen, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina Wilmington, 601 South College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403-5612. Electronic mail may be sent to


Cross-classified items pose an interesting challenge to children’s induction as these items belong to many different categories, each of which may serve as a basis for a different type of inference. Inductive selectivity is the ability to appropriately make different types of inferences about a single cross-classifiable item based on its different category memberships. This research includes 5 experiments that examine the development of inductive selectivity in 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds (n = 272). Overall, the results show that by age 4, children have inductive selectivity with taxonomic and script categories. That is, children use taxonomic categories to make biochemical inferences about an item whereas script categories to make situational inferences about an item.