Frequently produced semantic features reflect principled connections
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Description: When people think about the features of common objects, like scissors, they often spontaneously recall a central feature: scissors cut things. They tend not to recall other features of scissors, e.g., that they have handles. The present paper posits a novel explanation for the behavior: the features people recall first and most often reflect semantic generalizations of kinds. A recent taxonomy of such generalizations suggests that people represent privileged links between kinds and their features known as principled connections (Prasada et al., 2013). Several tests diagnose principled connections: for instance, principled connections reflect norms, so one way to diagnose the presence of a principled connection is to test the acceptability of sentences of the form all normal Xs have feature Y, as in all normal cars have four wheels. We tested whether participants accept generalizations about the normality of features produced in a semantic feature production task (Experiments 1 and 2) as well as self-referential generalizations (Experiment 3). The experiments provided participants with generalizations about features listed first and most often as well as features that people list less frequently. They found that people readily accepted generalizations that diagnose the presence of principled connections. The results corroborate the view that principled connections help people recall the features of conceptual categories.
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