Children's differential weighting of cues to social categories

Gil Diesendruck, Eitan Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Two studies investigated the weights of physical similarity, labels, and internal properties in 5-year-olds' (n = 64) categorization and inferences regarding three social categories: gender, race, and shirt-color. Participants saw exemplars of varying degrees of similarity to target categories and were asked to categorize the exemplars and draw inferences about them. Varied across studies was the kind of information pitted against visual similarity - labels (Study 1) or internal information (Study 2). Labels had the weakest effect on children's categorization of the most essentialized category - gender. (Essentialism was assessed independently.) Internal property information dominated physical similarity in determining children's categorization of all three categories. We conclude that essentialized social categories are defined as natural kinds, wherein appearances are indicative of intrinsic essences, and thus information about intrinsic properties - but not labels - can lead children to overlook physical dissimilarity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-72
Number of pages17
JournalCognitive Development
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Inc.


  • Categorization
  • Induction
  • Labels
  • Perceptual similarity
  • Social categories


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