Will the real grandmother please stand up? The psychological reality of dual meaning representations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Two types of meaning representation are described, symptom and criterion, and it is argued that both have psychological status in mental representations of kinship terms. Certain symptoms, such as old age and biofocals for grandmothers, are likely indicators of grandmotherhood, but they do not reliably pick out all positive instances, nor do they indicate negative ones. Criteria specify the necessary and sufficient conditions for grandmotherhood: having a grandchild. The psychological reality of these two representations was demonstrated by asking children and adults to select kin-term exemplars from pictures in which both age and reciprocal kin symptoms are displayed, and to justify their selections. In both tasks, there was change with age away from using typical age as the sole basis for performance; older subjects selected pictures displaying reciprocal kin, and justified their choices by referring to the criterion. More important, at each age level, there was evidence for dual representation: Even subjects who selected pictures based on the age symptom often gave criterial justifications, and subjects who selected pictures based on the reciprocal kin symptom still preferred pictures displaying age symptoms in addition to the reciprocal kin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-62
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1982
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Psychology(all)

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