Conceptual Organization at 6 and 8 Years of Age: Evidence From the Semantic Priming of Object Decisions Purpose The purpose of this study was to examine children’s knowledge of semantic relations. Method In Experiment 1, the 6-year-olds, 8-year-olds, and adults participated in an object decision task. Participants in the primed group made object decisions in response to primes that were related taxonomically, thematically, or perceptually ... Research Article
Research Article  |   February 01, 2007
Conceptual Organization at 6 and 8 Years of Age: Evidence From the Semantic Priming of Object Decisions
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Naomi Hashimoto
    Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
  • Karla K. McGregor
    Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
  • Anne Graham
    Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
  • Contact author: Karla K. McGregor, who is now at Speech Pathology and Audiology, Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Center, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-1012. E-mail: karla-mcgregor@uiowa.edu.
  • Naomi Hashimoto is now at the Department of Communication Disorders, University of Wisconsin–River Falls.
    Naomi Hashimoto is now at the Department of Communication Disorders, University of Wisconsin–River Falls.×
Article Information
Normal Language Processing / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   February 01, 2007
Conceptual Organization at 6 and 8 Years of Age: Evidence From the Semantic Priming of Object Decisions
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2007, Vol. 50, 161-176. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/014)
History: Received December 15, 2005 , Revised April 1, 2006 , Accepted May 9, 2006
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2007, Vol. 50, 161-176. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/014)
History: Received December 15, 2005; Revised April 1, 2006; Accepted May 9, 2006

Purpose The purpose of this study was to examine children’s knowledge of semantic relations.

Method In Experiment 1, the 6-year-olds, 8-year-olds, and adults participated in an object decision task. Participants in the primed group made object decisions in response to primes that were related taxonomically, thematically, or perceptually to the target objects. Those in the unprimed group made decisions about the same stimuli without the benefit of primes. In Experiment 2, the children in the primed group explained the taxonomic and thematic relations between the prime–target pairs used in Experiment 1.

Results In Experiment 1, the strength of semantic relations did not vary with type or age, as taxonomic priming was as strong as thematic priming and the degree of priming did not reliably differentiate the 3 age groups. Differential priming effects between taxonomic and perceptual conditions, the former hastening and the latter slowing responses, suggested that the relation binding object concepts into taxonomies was not reducible to common physical features. In Experiment 2, the 6-year-olds had more difficulty describing taxonomic than thematic relations, whereas the 8-year-olds described both with ease.

Conclusions Contrary to the shift hypothesis, taxonomic and thematic relationsstructure concepts in children as young as 6 and into adulthood. In accord with the performance hypothesis, 6-year-olds' representations of taxonomic relations are fragile and vulnerable to high task demands.

Acknowledgment
We thank the participants for their time and effort, as well as James Booth, Nina Capone, Kristy Grohne Reilly, Swathi Kiran, Robyn Newman, Renée Reilly, Katharina Rohlfing, Li Sheng, and Sandy Waxman for their helpful insights. Dedre Gentner graciously provided stimuli for the perceptual condition. The second author was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (Grants R29 DC 03698 and 2 R01 DC003698-06).
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