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Florencia K. Anggoro

Abstract

The present study examined whether English and Indonesian naming practices are predictive of children’s and adults’ conceptions of animal, specifically, the hierarchical relationships between human, mammal and animal. At age 6, English speakers were almost two times more likely than Indonesian speakers to agree that mammals are animals. At age 9, English speakers were three times more likely than Indonesian speakers to agree that humans are mammals. As adults, Indonesian (but not English) speakers continued to deny that humans are animals. That is, the Indonesian naming practice that leads speakers to deny that humans are animals appears related to a delay in Indonesian-speaking children’s acceptance that mammals are animals and humans are mammals. We conclude that this delay may stem from a conflict between categorical knowledge and well-established naming practices.

Florencia K. Anggoro

In English, ‘animal’ applies to humans and non-human animals, but in Indonesian, the word (‘hewan’) does not apply to humans. Previous research has shown that English-speaking children were more likely than Indonesian-speaking children to agree that mammals are animals (age 6) and humans are mammals (age 9). As adults, Indonesian speakers accepted these statements, but denied that humans are animals. Thus, adults’ judgments were intransitive. In the present work, Indonesian-speaking children and adults were asked to revisit their judgments about biological categories following exposure to three-dimensional objects as an analog for class-inclusion relationships. The results were striking: While most of the children changed their judgments after the analogical prompt to agree that humans are mammals and humans are animals, the adults stayed with their initial judgments that were collectively illogical but consistent with their naming practice. These results suggest a complex interplay between naming, logical thinking and development.