True story: First, some background…we taught Pen Elaine that a pirate says “Aaaargh,” just like dogs say “arf” and ducks say “quack.” Recently, we went out to eat, and Pen Elaine did her usual thing of craning to see all the people she could from her high chair. Well, a few tables away sat a guy and a girl, and the guy had on an eye patch…When PenElaine saw him, she started saying “Aaaargh!” I tried to quiet her down once we realized what was going on, but it was hilarious.
It’s interesting to see how she is forming her category of “pirate.” Based on what she’s seen so far, she recognizes a skull-and-crossbones icon as a pirate, a manequin that looks like Johnny Depp as a pirate, and even a guy with an eye-patch as a pirate. To follow, she, of course, can’t resist showing off her knowledge by making the appropriate pirate sound! Early on, infants begin using perceptual categorization, based on appearances, and as they grown in conceptual development, they move on to categories based more on function or causal-relations. This is also related to forming schemas, or quick guides for determining what something is and how to react quickly in a particular situation. At first, a young child might over-generalize and think that anything furry with four legs is a dog. Allowing a child to see multiple examples of a dog, for instance, will help them build a more accurate representation, or category, or schema for “dog.” If you are interested, here’s developmental pscyhologist Lisa Oakes’ research website.