Categorization Ability, but Not Theory of Mind, Contributes to Children’s Developing Understanding of Expertise

Judith DanovitchUniversity of Louisville
Nicholaus NolesUniversity of Louisville

Abstract

Children as young as age 3 understand that different people have different areas of expertise (i.e., the division of cognitive labor) and they choose information sources accordingly (e.g., Lutz & Keil, 2002). However, it is unclear whether this understanding depends primarily on social cognitive skills, such as an appreciation of others’ mental states, or non-social cognitive skills, such as the ability to categorize different types of entities. To address this question, children ages 3 to 5 (n=63) completed tasks measuring social and non-social cognitive skills, and made inferences about what two unfamiliar experts would know. The results demonstrate that developmental differences in children’s understanding of expertise are mediated through concomitant differences in categorization ability, but not theory of mind

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