Concepts, Kinds, and Cognitive Development


In Concepts, Kinds, and Cognitive Development, Frank Keil provides a coherent account of how concepts and word meanings develop in children, adding to our understanding of the representational nature of concepts and word meanings at all ages.

Keil argues that it is impossible to adequately understand the nature of conceptual representation without also considering the issue of learning. Weaving together issues in cognitive development, philosophy, and cognitive psychology, he reconciles numerous theories, backed by empirical evidence from nominal kinds studies, natural-kinds studies, and studies of fundamental categorical distinctions. He shows that all this evidence, when put together, leads to a better understanding of semantic and conceptual development.

The book opens with an analysis of the problems of modeling qualitative changes in conceptual development, investigating how concepts of natural kinds, nominal kinds, and artifacts evolve.

The studies on nominal kinds document a powerful and unambiguous developmental pattern indicating a shift from a reliance on global tabulations of characteristic features to what appears to be a small set of defining ones. The studies on natural kinds document an analogous shift toward a core theory instead of simple definition. Both sets of studies are strongly supported by cross cultural data.

While these patterns seem to suggest that the young child organizes concepts according to characteristic features, Kell argues that there is a framework of conceptual categories and causal beliefs that enables even very young children to understand kinds at a deeper, theoretically guided, level. This account suggests a new way of understanding qualitative change and carries strong implications for how concepts are represented at any point in development.

A Bradford Book

Table of Contents

  1. Series Foreword
  2. Preface
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. 1. The Representation and Acquisition of Concepts
  5. 2. Some Traditional Views of Conceptual Development Reconsidered
  6. 3. Natural Kinds, Nominal Kinds, and Artifacts
  7. 4. The Development of Nominal Kind Concepts:
  8. 5. Nominal Kinds and Domain Specificity
  9. 6. The Nature and Causes of Nominal Kind Shifts
  10. 7. Semantic and Conceptual Structure and the Nominal Kind Studies
  11. 8. Discoveries about Natural Kinds and Artifacts
  12. 9. Transformations on Natural Kinds and Artifacts
  13. 10. Property Transformations and Intercategory Distance
  14. 11. The Construction of an Intuitive Theory of Biological Kinds
  15. 12. Escaping the Original Sim.
  16. 13. Concepts, Theories, and Development
  17. 1. Stimuli for Characteristic-to-Defining Shift Study
  18. 2. Stimuli for Nominal Kinds and Domain Specificity Study
  19. 3. Stimuli for Idiosyncratic Defining Features Study
  20. 4. Stimuli for Nominal Kind Teaching Study
  21. 5. Stimuli for First Discoveries Study
  22. 6. Stimuli for First Transformations Study
  23. 7. Stimuli for Contrasting Property Types Study
  24. References
  25. Author Index
  26. Subject Index