A pluralistic approach to concept formation considers that object concepts can derive from perceptual similarity and contextual relations, their involvement varying according to individuals and object domain. Three experiments with children provided convergent results supporting this view. First, a longitudinal study revealed that for children between 3 and 4 years, visual similarity is increasingly more helpful in categorizing natural objects at the superordinate level, while contextual similarity facilitates specifically the categorization of artifacts. Second, 3-year-old childrenï¿½s individual preference for either basic level taxonomic (perceptually-based) or thematic (contextually-based) relations differently affected superordinate categorization of objects in both domains. Third, training 5-year-old-children to look for either common visual properties or common functions differently modified superordinate categorization of natural objects and artifacts. Altogether, the data revealed that different cues are involved in the formation of natural and artifact concepts. However, further studies should consider finer distinctions between objects, such as manipulability.
KEYWORDS: concepts, natural objects and artifacts, development, individual differences.