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Overview of projects

Many cognitive models assume that concepts are represented in a psychological similarity space, with conceptual referents appearing as values along a (multi-) dimensional continua. From this assumption, children's concepts are interesting because their initial similarity space appears to be distorted in ways that are not scientifically or mathematically correct (e.g., judging plants to be more similar to rocks than to animals, or judging 100 to be closer to 1000 than 1), but do make sense evolutionarily. For example, to a hungry animal, the difference between 1 and 10 pieces of food is more important than the difference between 101 and 110 pieces of food. By conceptualizing development as a change in underlying similarity space, we can make quite specific predictions about the properties of information that will lead to conceptual change, how quickly and broadly conceptual change will occur, and what factors will lead to transfer to new types of problems. We apply this approach to several families of concepts, including numerical and biological concepts.


Representations and Representational Change

Representational change and transfer.


Numerical cognition

Development of the mental number line.


Categorization, Analogy, and Induction

Generalization over similarities between objects and object relations. Role of analogy in conceptual change.


Animacy and biological reasoning

Animacy and conceptual change in biology.

Garden of Constants, The Ohio State University

Developmental

Cognitive Science Lab


John Opfer, Ph.D.