Princeton University Library Catalog

The Blowfish Effect in Children: Exploring Exemplar Typicality in Word Learning and Generalization to the Basic Level

Loncar, Nicole [Browse]
Senior thesis
Emberson, Lauren L. [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year:
Restrictions note:
This content is embargoed until July 1, 2019. For more information contact the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note:
In hearing a novel label in reference to an object, an individual is required to make an inference as to which taxonomic level the new word is referring to. Historically, word learning literature has suggested that learners preferentially interpret novel words at the basic level. However, children must also eventually learn words at all category levels, including the more specific, subordinate level. The present empirical study explores two factors that relate to how likely children are to assume subordinate level interpretations for these novel words: the number of exemplars, and the typicality of those exemplars. Results demonstrate that a novel label applied to an atypical exemplar (e.g. Dalmatian) of its basic level category (dogs) is more likely to be attributed to the subordinate level. Moreover, this “Blowfish Effect” is demonstrated to be both as strong as, and independent from, the effect of the “suspicious coincidence,” which is presently replicated from Xu and Tenenbaum (2007). Findings suggest that both the content and the structure of the exemplars witnessed play a role in how children learn words at the subordinate level.