An investigation of the origin of logical quantification: infant’s and adult’s representations of collective and distributive actions in complex visual scenes

AbstractThe human mind can compress visual experiences via universal quantification, expressed with the words “All” and “Each”. We tested adults’ and infants’ representations underlying the tracking of collectively-exhaustive actions or distributively-exhaustive actions. In Experiment 1, adults spontaneously used the word “All” to describe movies where agents all pursued a single ball together and “Each” for those where each agent chased its own ball. Crucially, the use of “Each”, but not of “All”, significantly decreased when there were more than 3 chasers, suggesting that “Each” piggybacked on the representation of discrete individuals, while “All” on the representation of a single collective event. In Experiment 2, infants habituated to the “All” movies successfully dishabituated to the “Each” movies and vice versa, when the chasers were 3. These findings begin to suggest that the representations of collectively-exhaustive and distributively-exhaustive actions that connect with natural language quantifiers are in place early in life.

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