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Seminar: 10/5 - Susan Carey, Harvard University

11:00 to 12:30 PM      at:  5101 Tolman Hall

The origin of concepts: Logical operators

The study of the origin of the human conceptual repertoire has largely focused on domain specific perceptual and conceptual representations (e.g., of color, objects, number, agents; see Carey 2009, for a review). In contrast, virtually no studies address the origins of domain general representations, such as those that articulate the logical faculty. Logical representations are plausibly necessarily language-like in format, and it is unknown whether non-human animals and prelinguistic infants have such representations. Here I present the beginning steps of an exploration of these issues through a case study of the disjunctive syllogism:  A or B, not A, therefore B. I review the evidence that non-human animals reason in accord with the disjunctive syllogism, and chart the development of the same capacity in infants over the age ranges of 14 to 24 months. I present evidence consistent with a leaner interpretation of the behavior or animals and babies in these tasks and conclude with a discussion of sources of data that could potentially establish the existence of logical representation in non-linguistic creatures.