Developmental Changes in the Semantic Organization of Living Kinds

Layla UngerCarnegie Mellon University
Anna V. FisherCarnegie Mellon University
Christopher J. MacLellanCarnegie Mellon University

Abstract

Semantic knowledge contains information about both individual concepts and relationships between concepts. Relationships come in many forms, including taxonomic and thematic, and are critical for converting collections of attributes known about each entity into an interconnected web of semantic knowledge. According to computational modeling studies, increasing knowledge about entities and their relationships should support increasing elaboration in the organizational structure of semantic knowledge. In contrast, extant empirical research has presented a static picture of the developmental trajectory of semantic organization, in which concepts remain organized according to thematic relations into adulthood. The current developmental study introduces methodological innovations designed to overcome limitations that may have skewed the developmental trajectory described in prior studies. The picture that has emerged from this study reflects dramatic changes in semantic organization from preschool age to adulthood, in which an initially limited grasp of multiple types of relations expands and becomes increasingly robust with age.

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