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"But it's Jill!": The development of understanding of identity and value functions of proper names

Nyhof, Melanie A. (2012) "But it's Jill!": The development of understanding of identity and value functions of proper names. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Research indicates that although children as young as two years of age are able to use proper names to track individuals across change, tracking identity across hypothetical brain transplants and magical transfers of mind is a later developmental achievement. Additionally, the value implications of naming have not been studied. The present research examined children’s ability to use proper names to track individuals in contrast to mind and labels, and their understanding of the value implications of proper names. Study 1a examined identity tracking and irreplaceable value judgments of a named stuffed animal or toy car in contrast to an identical toy bearing a category label or the experimenter’s toy. Study 1b examined four- and seven-year-old children’s ability to track identity across a magical transfer using proper names and mind. Study 2 examined the ability of children and adults to use proper names versus trait labels to track identity across transfers differing in degree of ontological distance (person, dog, stone). Also, effects of label type and category on irreplaceable value judgments were considered. The results indicated that 4-year-olds successfully track the identity of a named toy and this ability continues to develop with age. Four-year-olds presented with a magical transfer scenario were able to track identity but not subjective aspects of identity, across a transfer, using proper names. Whereas 7-year-olds were able to use proper names, mind, and trait label equally well to track subjective identity, 4-year-olds performed better with mind than with either proper name or trait label. The results suggest that with age, children increasingly associate proper names with subjective identity. In addition, older children were less likely than younger children to respond that an old and worn toy bearing a proper name should be replaced. Children also judged more often that a toy car was replaceable than a stuffed elephant. When presented with magical transfer scenarios, adults judged subjective identity as irreplaceably valuable more often than participants in either of the child groups. However, there was no evidence that proper names, in contrast to mind and trait labels, uniquely influenced judgments of irreplaceable value of subjective identity.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Nyhof, Melanie A.men19@pitt.eduMEN19
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJohnson, Carl N.johnson@pitt.eduJOHNSON
Committee MemberBrownell, Celia A.brownell@pitt.eduBROWNELL
Committee MemberKiesling, Scott F.Kiesling@pitt.eduKIESLING
Committee MemberStrauss, Mark S. strauss@pitt.eduSTRAUSS
Date: 1 February 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 25 April 2011
Approval Date: 1 February 2012
Submission Date: 8 December 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 150
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: proper names, identity, cognitive development, value
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2012 13:50
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:55


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