Object Shape, Object Name, and Object Kind: Representation and Development

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses the existence of a shape bias, which provides a vital link to mapping knowledge of kinds onto the objects that exist in the physical world. There is no need to conclude that the child who has a shape bias will possess impoverished or inaccurate representations because Tthe characteristics of the shape bias-its selectivity, its mapping to syntax, its guidance by a rich system of object representation. Rather, the shape bias serves as the child's bootstrap into what otherwise would be an impossible problem to solve. The evidence from adults strongly suggests that it does not go away, but rather, continues to play a prominent role in guiding people's inferences about the extension of novel named categories. Recall that adults, not children, show the strongest shape bias when novel rigid objects are introduced with no further information. However, the shape bias also admits of enrichment through the acquisition of specific knowledge, and this knowledge can, in some circumstances, come to override shape. The chapter reviews that from a developmental perspective, the shape bias is the key to getting the object naming system off the ground. The existence of the shape bias does not suggest that young children are “perception-bound,’’ or that they must undergo massive qualitative change to consider factors other than shape. Rather, it suggests that nature planned well in designing learners to be sensitive to properties that really do count.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
Number of pages52
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NamePsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
ISSN (Print)0079-7421

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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