Our past studies have found that for young children, the act of comparing perceptually similar entities can lead to insight into conceptual relations shared by the two entities. Thus, paradoxically, comparing perceptually similar entities can promote abstract responding in children. In this paper we ask whether there are limits to the benefits of perceptual similarity: that is, how close is too close. We examined four-year-oldsï¿½ categorization patterns after comparing either two similar (but discriminable) or two nearly identical category exemplars. As expected, those who viewed the similar exemplars classified objects based on conceptual over perceptual commonalities. However, those who saw nearly identical exemplars classified objects based on perceptual similarity. These findings suggest that introducing category exemplars that are nearly identical inhibits abstraction and generalization.
KEYWORDS: comparison, categorization, similarity, structural alignment.