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The current study examined preschool children's understanding of the dichotomy between the natural and the artificial, i.e., a classification consisting of all natural kinds (both animate and inanimate) on the one hand, and of all artifacts on the other. Whilst previous research has studied children's differentiation of animate (i.e., animals, plants) from inanimate kinds (i.e., natural substances, artifacts) as well as animals from artifacts on the basis of the items' intrinsic structural and causal properties, no study has so far examined children's understanding of the dichotomy between natural and artificial kinds as a supraordinate conceptual division based on the items' extrinsic origin. Two experiments are reported which support the presence of a well-defined dichotomy in both preschool children and adults. That is, children in the current study have no difficulties understanding the contrast between natural and artificial as well-defined categories, unlike their counterparts in those studies which investigate the contrasts between different natural categories, on the one hand, and the single artificial category, on the other. The discrepancy between the present findings and the earlier research is explained in terms of children's greater familiarity with the criterion (extrinsic to the object) which underlies the dichotomy between the natural and the artificial than with criteria (intrinsic to the object) which underlie the less-inclusive divisions such as animate vs inanimate, and animal vs artifact.


Journal article


Psychological Reports

Publication Date





3 - 27