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Pages Social Cognition and Cortical Function. Homo Heuristicus and the Bias—Variance Dilemma. Action, Embodied Meaning, and Thought. Neo-Pragmatism and Enactive Intentionality.

Minds, Things, and Materiality. Contributions of Mirror Mechanisms to the Embodiment of Cognition. Prior research conducted by Hollander et al. However they did not nd this with their adult participants.

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Philosophy & Psychology Writings of Sarah-Jane Leslie

In their study, Hollander et al. They found that fouryear-olds and adults successfully differentiated between all three types of questions in their answers, but threeyear-olds did not. Instead, the three-year-olds gave the same responses regardless of whether the question was in universal, generic, or existential form. The difference between the age groups was due entirely to differences in their responses to the two quantiers Hollander et al. The three-year-olds responded as the adults did to the generic questions but then also responded in that same way to the universally and existentially quantied questions.

The three-year-olds apparently handled the generic questions. Tardif et al. Mandarin speaking four-year-olds also showed the effect; it was not until age ve that Mandarin speaking children differentiated their responses to quantied questions from their responses to generic questions. Such ndings are predicted by the generics-as-default hypothesis: when confronted with a quantied statement that applies to an entire kind, the young preschoolers failed to inhibit their default tendency toward generic generalizations, and so they treated the quantied assertions as though they were generic.

Thus instead of considering whether, e. The English speaking three-yearolds were, however, able to respond accurately to quantied questions in a post-test session where all the questions concerned a small discrete set of items e. The results of the main experiment were thus not due to a basic lack of competence with the quantiers; they seemed instead to do with the difculty of processing categorywide quantied statements. When confronted with a quantied claim about an entire category as opposed to a specic subset , young preschoolers appear to rely on their interpretation of the corresponding generic.

In Hollander et al. The generics-as-defaults hypothesis would predict that this would not always be the case, however. We wondered if Hollander et al. Would adult participants have any inclination to treat category-wide quantied statements as though they were in fact generics?

Work by Jnsson and Hampton , Osherson, Smith, Wilkie, Lopez, and Shar and Sloman , Sloman suggests that this may occur in the case of the quantier all. For example, Jnsson and Hampton found that, in a wide range of circumstances, adults judged that it was more likely, e. Clearly, such judgments are erroneous from the point of view of logic, because all ravens are black entails that all young jungle ravens are black.

Indeed, Connolly, Fodor, Gleitman, and Gleitman conrmed that people routinely reason this way with generics see also. Cimpian, Brandone, et al. Their focus was not on the interpretation of generic statements per se, but rather on prototypical properties Rosch, properties that generics are well suited to express Declerk, ; Geurts, While the generics-asdefaults hypothesis would explain Jnsson and Hamptons ndings, their data constitute only indirect support for the hypothesis.


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Is it possible to nd more direct evidence of adults interpreting quantied statements as generics? Data from a memory study by Leslie and Gelman submitted for publication supports the hypothesis that adults, as well as children, may sometimes treat quantied statements as generics.

Leslie and Gelmans data suggest that adults and young children both frequently misremember category-wide statements quantied with all and most as generics. This is consistent with the idea that adults may at times treat universally quantied statements as generics. In light of these ndings, we wondered whether adults would be inclined to agree to some false universal statements when the corresponding generic is true, despite knowing about the falsifying counterinstances. Preliminary data reported by Khemlani et al. We term this the generic overgeneralization GOG effect, since it involves overgeneralizing from the truth of a generic to the truth of the corresponding universal statement, as the generics-as-default hypothesis would predict.

In Experiment 1, we replicated Khemlani et al. We predicted that the ndings from Khemlani et al.


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  • While Hollander et al. This is because generics are rarely accepted if no members of the kind have the property, i. Thus, it would not be feasible to nd cases where an existential statement was false, but the corresponding generic was true. The only possible GOG errors involving some, then, would involve people incorrectly judging a true existential statement to be false because the corresponding generic was false, e. However, it is extremely easy to determine that such an existential is true: one only needs to think of a single right-handed Canadian in order to accept it. In this way, true existential statements are easy to evaluate, and so it is unlikely that adults would incorrectly rely on the default generic in such cases.

    It may be harder, though, for people to conrm that a universal statement is true, since they are only true if every single member of the kind has the property in question.

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    Adults may thus save cognitive effort by relying on the generic to evaluate the universal. If true existential statements are easier to evaluate than universals, however, it is likely that no GOG effect will be found. If the statement is easy to evaluate, participants will be unlikely to rely on the generic default. The scope of the overgeneralization effect The generics-as-default hypothesis predicts that adults will tend to incorrectly endorse false universal statements if the corresponding generic is true.

    A further question is whether this effect would be found for all types of generics, or whether it is more limited in scope. Prasada and Dillingham , Prasada and Dillingham dene the notion of a principled connection so as to include only properties that are expected to be highly prevalent among members of the kind. However, generics such as ducks lay eggs and lions have manes seem to express essential properties in the sense of Medin and Ortony and Gelman , and otherwise resemble principled properties, despite predicating properties that are only true of mature members of one gender of the kind Cimpian, Brandone, et al.

    Characteristic properties can, in some cases, occur in only a minority of the members of the kind; for example, laying eggs would seem to stem from the nature of ducks, even though only the mature fertile female ducks possess the property.


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    • Leslie , Leslie terms generics such as ducks lay eggs minority characteristic generics, since they express properties that are characteristic of the kind, but are only possessed by a minority of its members. Would all these generics support a GOG effect? One hypothesis is that all generics produce GOG effects, regardless of whether the property in question is characteristic of the kind or not.

      On this hypothesis, people should accept universals like all cars have radios and all sharks attack swimmers as frequently as they accept minority characteristic universals such as all ducks lay eggs and all lions have manes. There are, however, some theoretical and empirical reasons to suspect that the GOG effect might be most pronounced in the case of characteristic properties Khemlani et al. Characteristic properties are usually possessed by all or almost all members of a kind; in most cases, the only members of a kind that lack a characteristic or essential property are in some respect abnor-.

      Thus, while the corresponding universal statements may be strictly speaking incorrect since there are some stripeless tigers and three-legged dogs assertions such as all tigers are striped and all dogs have four legs may be close enough to being correct for practical purposes. This is not so for non-characteristic properties: there is nothing abnormal about the many sharks that never attack swimmers, and so all sharks attack swimmers is patently incorrect.

      In this way, the tendency to substitute a judgment of the generic for the universal will be generally more successful when the property in question is a characteristic one, and so adult participants may be less likely to show a GOG effect if the property is not characteristic of the kind.

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      However, there are some characteristic properties that do not occur in all or almost all members of the kind, namely minority characteristic ones, as in ducks lay eggs and lions have manes Leslie, If this hypothesis is correct, then the GOG effect should be observed for minority characteristic predications, such as all ducks lay eggs and all lions have manes. Data from Khemlani et al. The limited range of test items prevented any rm conclusions being drawn, and so Experiment 1 used an expanded set of items to test the GOG effect.

      A full taxonomy of the types of predications used in these studies may be found in Table 1 below. If adults do indeed erroneously accept statements like all ducks lay eggs, does this necessarily support the generics-as-default hypothesis? One alternative explanation is that people may interpret the universal quantier all as applying to subkinds of ducks, rather than to individual ducks.

      That is, people may understand all ducks lay eggs to mean all kinds of ducks lay eggs e. On this interpretation, it would be correct to accept all ducks lay eggs, and so this would not constitute evidence that participants were defaulting to their judgment of a generic in place of a universal. An alternative explanation is that people may interpret all ducks to apply to only a subset of ducks, namely the fertile female ducks. If this explanation is correct, then peoples acceptance of all ducks lay eggs would again not constitute evidence for the generics-as-defaults hypothesis.

      Experiment 2 sought to address these issues. In Experiment 2a, participants were given population information e.

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      If the GOG effect is driven by quantication over subtypes, or by contextual quantier domain restriction, then it should disappear in the context of population information. Further, in Experiment 2b, participants performed a paraphrase task in which they were asked to paraphrase the sentence they evaluated. The paraphrases were then coded. If the GOG effect was simply due to generalization over subkinds or restricted quantier scope, then there should be evidence of this in participants paraphrases.

      In particular, they should be more likely to provide a paraphrase that either refers to subkinds or reects quantier domain restriction if they accepted the universal than if they rejected it. Another alternative explanation for the effect would be that participants were simply ignorant of the biological facts.

      Experiment 3 addressed whether the participants who accepted statements such as all ducks lay eggs did indeed know that male ducks do not lay eggs.

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      It is possible though perhaps unlikely that people accepted these false universal statements simply out of ignorance. The experiment used a blocked design; one block replicated Experiment 1 and the other asked participants to evaluate statements involving counterexamples such as male ducks lay eggs. In addition to controlling for background knowledge, we were interested in whether the GOG effect would persist after participants had been asked to think about these counterexamples.

      Adults take counterexamples into consideration when evaluating universals, so if participants had processed these statements as universals but were somehow unable to bring counterexamples to mind, then the GOG effect should disappear, since counterexamples should have been readily called to mind.

      Conversely, if participants processed the universal statements as though they were generics, as we predicted, then they should have accepted all ducks lay eggs to some extent, even after rejecting the statement male ducks lay eggs. After all, the truth of the generic ducks lay eggs is perfectly compatible with male ducks failure to do so.

      Finally, Experiment 4 tested whether the GOG effect persisted when people were asked to choose between two statements such as all ducks lay eggs and some ducks do not lay eggs. The experiment offered people a. If the GOG effect is due to participants relying on their judgment of the generic instead of evaluating the universal, then they may continue to erroneously prefer the universal statement.

      Experiment 1: the generic overgeneralization effect Preliminary work suggests that the GOG effect may occur most clearly for predications that express gender-specic properties that are characteristic of the kind in question, e. Can any GOG effect be found for non-characteristic properties, or is it limited to characteristic properties in the case of adults? Prasada and Dillingham , Prasada and Dillingham and Leslie , Leslie have identied various other types of generics, so we included each identied type in our experiments, plus a category of statements that are false in generic form.

      Examples are given in Table 1. Our rst and last types of predications, quasi-denitional and false generalizations, were included for comparison purposes. False generalizations tend to be rejected in generic form despite predicating prevalent properties of the kind Khemlani et al.