New York University
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Young children display a pervasive bias to assume that what they observe in the world reflects how things are supposed to be. The present study examined the nature of this bias, by testing whether it reflects a particular form of social reasoning or a more general feature of children’s category representations. Children (ages 4-9) and adults (N = 296) evaluated instances of nonconformity among members of novel biological and social kinds. Children held normative expectations for both animal and social categories—in both cases, they said it was wrong for a category member to engage in category-atypical behavior. The evidence required to generate these beliefs differed across domains, however. For social categories, children required direct evidence of group homogeneity, whereas for animal kinds even a single category member was sufficient. Thus, early normativity appears to rely on the interplay between general conceptual biases and domain-specific expectations about category structure.
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