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Individuation, identity and proper names in cognitive development

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000128052D
Original Publication Date: 1999-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Sep-14
Document File: 8 page(s) / 29K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Sorrentino, Christina M.: AUTHOR [+3]

Related Documents

http://theses.mit.edu:80/Dienst/UI/2.0/Describe/0018.mit.theses/1999-76: URL

Abstract

The ability to individuate entities (i.e. conceptualize one entity as distinct from two) and trace their identity (i.e. judge that an entity is the same one as an entity encountered before) is a fundamental component of the human mind and is critical to proper name reference (i.e. a proper name, like Max, refers to a unique individual, namely Max). Philosophers have proposed that sortalsconcepts which refer to kinds of individuals-support these abilities (Gupta,1980; Hirsch, 1982; Macnamara,1986; Wiggins,1967,1980). However., while adults may well have sortal concepts and learn proper names for individuals, it is an open question whether children do so also. Proponents of the Continuity hypothesis (e.g. Macnamara,1982; Pinker, 1984) argue that children arid adults have fundamentally the same conceptual resources, whereas proponents of the Discontinuity hypothesis (e.g. Piaget,1954; Quine,1960,1969) argue that children and adults have qualitatively different conceptual systems. In this thesis, evidence is reviewed that very young infants have at least one sortal, physical object, which suggests that infants have the conceptual structure needed to support representations of kinds and individuals. Experiments probing infant understanding of the concept, person, suggest that infants have the ability to reason about the action and appearance of others, but data presented in the thesis falls short of providing conclusive evidence that infants under a year are able to individuate people. Evidence is presented that by age three-, children represent unique individuals and interpret proper names in an adultlike manner as referring to unique individuals. This rules out a discontinuity alternative, namely that preschoolers represent proper names as referring to highly similar objects or to restricted subkinds. Evidence is also presented that children as young as two years are like adults in being willing to accept a range of individuals as namable if given information which highlights the named objects' importance, such as the attribution of mental states to the object. 3 Together these findings provide support for the continuity hypothesis and suggest a number of avenues of research into children's understanding of kinds, individuals, and their names. Thesis Supervisor: Susan Carey Title: Professor of Psychology New York University

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 This record is the front matter from a document that appears on a server at MIT and is used through permission from MIT. See http://theses.mit.edu:80/Dienst/UI/2.0/Describe/0018.mit.theses/1999-76 for copyright details and for the full document in image form.

Individuation, Identity and Proper Names in Cognitive Development

by

Cristina M. Sorrentino
Diplome en Etudes Collegiales, Computer Science Technology Vanier College 1987 B.A., Psychology McGill University, 1993
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Science

at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

February 1999
SIGNATURE OF author: [[signature omitted]]

Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences

October 2, 1998

CERTIFIED BY: [[SIGNATURE OMITTED]]

Susan Carey Professor of Psychology, New York University Thesis Supervisor Elizabeth S. Spelke
Professor of Psychology Thesis Supervisor ACCEPTED BY: [[SIGNATURE OMITTED]]

Gerald E. Schneider Professor of Neuroscience Chairman, Department Graduate Committee ARCHIVES MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY LIBRARIES OCT 13 1998

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Page 1 Dec 31, 1999

Page 2 of 8

Individuation, identity and proper names in cognitive development

Individuation, Identity and Proper Names in Cognitive Development

Cristina M. Sorrentino

Submitted to the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences on October 2, 1998 in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Science

ABSTRACT

The ability to individuate entities (i.e. conceptualize one entity as distinct from two) and trace their identity (i.e. judge that an entity is the same one as an entity encountered before) is a fundamental component of the human mind and is critical to proper name reference (i.e. a proper name, like Max, refers to a unique individual, namely Max). Philosophers have proposed that sortalsconcepts which refer to kinds of individuals-support these abilities (Gupta,1980; Hirsch, 1982; Macnamara,1986; Wiggins,1967,1980). However., while adults may well have sortal concepts and learn proper names for individuals, it is an open question whether children do so also. Proponents of the Continuity hypothesis (e.g. Macnamara,1982; Pinker, 1984) argue that children arid adults have fundamentally the same conceptual resources, whereas proponents of the Discontinuity hypothesis (e.g. Piaget,1954; Quine,1960,1969) argue that children and adults have qualitatively different conceptual systems.

In this thesis, evidence is reviewed that very young infants have at least one sortal, physical object, which suggests that infants have the conceptual structure needed to support representations of kinds and individuals. Experiments probing infant understanding of the concept, person, suggest that infants have the ability to reason about the action and appearance of others, but data presented in the thesis falls short of providing conclusive evidence that infant...