When Babies Learn Categorization

However, there is some surprising evidence that young babies are actually not particularly interested if a blue toy car goes in one edge of the screen and a yellow toy duck emerges at the far edge on the same trajectory! A grown-up would assume the duck that came out was brand-new and the other toy was still there behind the screen. But young babies seem content to think the toy somehow magically became a new kind of thing behind the screen. The particular kind of category-crossing magic trick in which the scarf turns into a dove wouldn't be surprising to them. Although young babies can discriminate between yellow and blue, and between the duck shape and car shape, they don't seem to rely on these features to determine which object this is. By the time babies are a year old, however, it is easy to show that across a wide range of situations they are surprised when the car turns into a duck, which suggests they have developed a new view of categorization.

Babies do other things that suggest they have a new view of categories. Alison and Andy gave babies a mixed-up bunch of objects: four different toy horses and four different pencils. Alison would put her hands palm up on the table and watch what the babies did with the objects. Nine- and ten-month-olds picked up the horses and pencils, played with them, and often put them in her hands, but they did so pretty much at random. But twelve-month-olds would sometimes pick all the objects of one group, all the horses or all the pencils, and put them in a hand or in a single pile on the table. By the time they were eighteen months old, babies would quite systematically and tidily sort the objects into two separate groups, carefully placing a horse in one hand and then a pencil in the other. In one experiment a particularly fastidious and precise little girl (there actually are fastidious eighteen-month-olds) noticed that one of the pencils had lost its point. She looked carefully at both hands and then reached for her mother's hand to make a separate spot for this peculiar and defective object.

By the time they are two or three years old, children already seem to have a deeper conception of what it means for an object to belong to a category. They can go beyond the superficial appearance of an object and comprehend something about its essential nature. And they begin to understand that knowing an object's category lets you predict specific new things about the object. For instance, you can tell three-year-olds some new fact about a particular object, you can point to a rhinoceros and say, "This rhinoceros has warm blood." If you then tell them that another animal is a rhinoceros, they will say that it has warm blood, too. But they won't extend their new discovery to a triceratops, which looks like a rhinoceros, if you describe it as a dinosaur.


By three years of age, children develop a fairly sophisticated sense of categorization. Perhaps a playing close attention to taxonomy will benefit the child at this stage in their development.

Folksonomies: education babies development taxonomy

/family and parenting/babies and toddlers (0.560744)
/art and entertainment/visual art and design/drawing (0.335408)
/art and entertainment/movies and tv/movies (0.281540)

young babies (0.983245 (positive:0.460267)), yellow toy duck (0.743094 (positive:0.407651)), blue toy car (0.714914 (positive:0.407651)), fairly sophisticated sense (0.706729 (positive:0.495025)), category-crossing magic trick (0.664433 (neutral:0.000000)), different toy horses (0.656729 (neutral:0.000000)), new view (0.653923 (negative:-0.313661)), precise little girl (0.626250 (negative:-0.343184)), warm blood (0.623224 (positive:0.415099)), specific new things (0.597106 (negative:-0.384757)), time babies (0.578752 (positive:0.397849)), surprising evidence (0.486227 (positive:0.407651)), different pencils (0.481655 (neutral:0.000000)), close attention (0.468306 (positive:0.746701)), duck shape (0.466905 (neutral:0.000000)), mixed-up bunch (0.462608 (negative:-0.526133)), wide range (0.451110 (positive:0.445483)), new kind (0.446605 (positive:0.512882)), particular kind (0.439744 (neutral:0.000000)), single pile (0.439408 (neutral:0.000000)), car shape (0.439362 (neutral:0.000000)), superficial appearance (0.433201 (negative:-0.462760)), defective object (0.432319 (negative:-0.661924)), new fact (0.431127 (neutral:0.000000)), separate groups (0.430461 (neutral:0.000000)), deeper conception (0.429510 (negative:-0.448831)), new discovery (0.426443 (negative:-0.248831)), particular object (0.425484 (neutral:0.000000)), fastidious eighteen-month-olds (0.425459 (negative:-0.568570)), essential nature (0.421574 (negative:-0.462760))

Alison:Person (0.776447 (negative:-0.137397)), Andy:Person (0.449957 (negative:-0.526133)), three years:Quantity (0.449957 (neutral:0.000000)), eighteen months:Quantity (0.449957 (neutral:0.000000)), eighteen-month:Quantity (0.449957 (neutral:0.000000)), twelve-month:Quantity (0.449957 (neutral:0.000000)), three-year:Quantity (0.449957 (neutral:0.000000)), ten-month:Quantity (0.449957 (neutral:0.000000)), one hand:Quantity (0.449957 (neutral:0.000000))

Abstraction (0.920291): dbpedia | freebase
Horse (0.903982): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Pencil (0.784562): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Metaphysics (0.768363): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Object (0.664015): dbpedia | freebase
English-language films (0.655449): dbpedia
Data type (0.643624): dbpedia | freebase
Ontology (0.626824): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Gopnik , Meltzoff , Kuhl (2001-01-01), The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind, Harper Paperbacks, Retrieved on 2011-07-06
Folksonomies: education parenting pregnancy babies children infancy