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Universal ontology: attentive tracking of objects and substances across languages and over development

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Cacchione T. Indino M. Fujita K. Itakura S. Matsuno T. Schaub S. & Amici F,
Project Core knowledge revisited: Effects of fission, fusion and shape transformation on infants’ ability to represent inanimate and animate objects
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal International Journal of Behavioral Development
Title of proceedings International Journal of Behavioral Development


Previous research has demonstrated that adults are successful at visually tracking rigidly moving items, but experience great difficulties when tracking substance-like “pouring” items. Using a comparative approach, we investigated whether the presence/absence of the grammatical count-mass distinction influences adults and children’s ability to attentively track objects versus substances. More specifically, we aimed to explore whether the higher success at tracking rigid over substance-like items appears universally or whether speakers of classifier languages (like Japanese, not marking the object-substance distinction) are advantaged at tracking substances as compared to speakers of non-classifier languages (like Swiss-German, marking the object-substance distinction). Our results supported the idea that language has no effect on low-level cognitive processes such as the attentive visual processing of objects and substances. We concluded arguing that the tendency to prioritize objects is universal and independent of specific characteristics of the language spoken.