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The mechanisms of early categorization and induction: smart or dumb infants?
This chapter outlines a number of the most prominent and thorny questions and issues in the field and shows how the answers to these questions and issues have wide reaching significance to development and cognition in general. Moreover, the research with preschoolers suggests that surface properties of objects may continue to play an important role in categorization and induction. Preschoolers (and adults) are highly influenced in their category membership decisions by the predictability of perceptual and non-obvious features. Moreover, this pattern of behavior suggests that the well-known essentialist bias results from experiments that pit one type of property against another, which causes children to choose the type of property they have learned is a better predictor of category membership. The chapter concludes that the evidence presented here merely touches the surface of infants', developing concepts and categories for animates and inanimates and more steps are required before the field has a clear view of the structure, content, and mechanisms involved in early infant category and concept development.