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ERIC Number: EJ781854
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Feb
Pages: 20
Abstractor: Author
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0277
Ape Metaphysics: Object Individuation without Language
Mendes, Natacha; Rakoczy, Hannes; Call, Josep
Cognition, v106 n2 p730-749 Feb 2008
Developmental research suggests that whereas very young infants individuate objects purely on spatiotemporal grounds, from (at latest) around 1 year of age children are capable of individuating objects according to the kind they belong to and the properties they instantiate. As the latter ability has been found to correlate with language, some have speculated whether it might be essentially language dependent and therefore uniquely human. Existing studies with non-human primates seem to speak against this hypothesis, but fail to present conclusive evidence due to methodological shortcomings. In the present experiments we set out to test non-linguistic object individuation in three great ape species with a refined manual search methodology. Experiment 1 tested for spatiotemporal object individuation: Subjects saw 1 or 2 objects simultaneously being placed inside a box in which they could reach, and then in both conditions only found 1 object. After retrieval of the 1 object, subjects reached again significantly more often when they had seen 2 than when they had seen 1 object. Experiment 2 tested for object individuation according to property/kind information only: Subjects saw 1 object being placed inside the box, and then either found that object (expected) or an object of a different kind (unexpected). Analogously to Experiment 1, after retrieval of the 1 object, subjects reached again significantly more often in the unexpected than in the expected condition. These results thus confirm previous findings suggesting that individuating objects according to their property/kind is neither uniquely human nor essentially language dependent. It remains to be seen, however, whether this kind of object individuation requires sortal concepts as human linguistic thinkers use them, or whether some simpler form of tracking properties is sufficient.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A