Noticing Basic level Categories used most often by my 6 year-old niece

In chapter 9 of the course text book it talks about if there is a “privileged” level of categories and goes into placing the basic level as that “privileged” level. I have noticed that my niece almost only uses this basic level of categorization when identifying objects. It could be argued that this is due to lack of knowledge of subordinate level of the objects, but she doesn’t use the superordinate level either, which she does know.


For example, when it comes to dinner time she might say something like, “I don’t want to eat the veggies (vegetables).” instead of saying I don’t want to eat peas. She does the same thing with fish, it can be whiting, swai, salmon, or fish sticks, but it is still just fish. As well as with potatoes they can be mashed, baked, or scalloped they are still potatoes to her.  This agrees with Rosch’s reasoning as discussed in the book.


Although she will call most automobiles cars (cars, vans, and trucks) there are certain automobiles that she will use the subordinate level. They all seem to be public service vehicles, such as a trash truck, fire truck, ambulance, etc. This is due to the important of the specific nature of the vehicles. She knows that an ambulance or fire truck means that there is danger or people are hurt. You could say that her greater knowledge leads to the use of the more details subordinate level than the basic level in these cases.



Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed., pp. 228-230). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

2 thoughts on “Noticing Basic level Categories used most often by my 6 year-old niece

  1. Margaret Elsa Lesser

    This is something I was just talking about with my cousin who has a baby. It is interesting how children categorize some objects into the privileged categories. Everything in the sky become a bird, even planes, because they don’t understand how to categorize things further when they partially fit the definition of the category that they know, like birds are in the sky, but don’t yet know that other things can be in the sky too. All animals become doggies, whether it be cows, sheep, or cats, because they don’t always know the subordinate categories of animals. I don’t see how these privileged categories can last very long for anyone, and am struggling to think of examples of how adults, or even children past a few years, could make these generalizations in categories, but it is interesting to think of children doing this, because it shows how children start to learn and make sense of this world, categorizing things as they go along.

  2. Caila Marie Landis

    I really enjoyed reading your post, I have noticed that throughout the course I have related a lot of the course concepts to my daughter. The way children learn is very interesting to me. The reason I chose to comment on your post was the fact that you said your niece who is six tends to use mostly the basic level of categorization. My daughter, who will be two in January, mostly uses the subordinate level, that is to say she will use words such as corn or carrots before the word veggies. I was interested in that you said it was not a lack of your nieces knowledge, that she knew the subordinate level, she just chose to use the basic level. With my daughter I do believe most of it comes from lack of knowledge, in fact I do not believe she has ever said the word veggies. Just in reading your post and relating it to my daughter it had me thinking that my daughter seems to learn subordinate levels before basic levels, and I found that very interesting.

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