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Language is not necessary for color categories

Ozturk, O., Shayan, S., Liszkowski, U., & Majid, A. (2013). Language is not necessary for color categories. Developmental Science, 16, 111-115. doi:10.1111/desc.12008.
The origin of color categories is under debate. Some researchers argue that color categories are linguistically constructed, while others claim they have a pre-linguistic, and possibly even innate, basis. Although there is some evidence that 4–6-month-old infants respond categorically to color, these empirical results have been challenged in recent years. First, it has been claimed that previous demonstrations of color categories in infants may reflect color preferences instead. Second, and more seriously, other labs have reported failing to replicate the basic findings at all. In the current study we used eye-tracking to test 8-month-old infants’ categorical perception of a previously attested color boundary (green–blue) and an additional color boundary (blue–purple). Our results show that infants are faster and more accurate at fixating targets when they come from a different color category than when from the same category (even though the chromatic separation sizes were equated). This is the case for both blue–green and blue–purple. Our findings provide independent evidence for the existence of color categories in pre-linguistic infants, and suggest that categorical perception of color can occur without color language.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

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