On Developing a Knowledge Base in Infancy

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The development of conceptual categories from 7 to 11 months of age was explored in 5 experiments using an object-examination task. Infants in this age range categorized the global domains of animals, vehicles, and furniture. Plants and kitchen utensils were tested at 11 months, and these domains were also categorized. When 9-month-olds were tested on kitchen utensils, they did not categorize them. Subdivisions within the animal and furniture domains were also examined. Infants did not show any subcategorization of furniture. In the animal domain both 9- and 11-month-olds responded to the life-form distinction between dogs and birds, but they did not differentiate the mammal categories of dogs and cats until 11 months. This early organization of the conceptual system into global domains that become increasingly differentiated is discussed in relation to the adult conceptual system and its breakdown in semantic dementia.

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