Development of Object Concepts in Childhood

Concepts are general forms of cognition that allow us to interact with classes of things rather than with single exemplars. There is agreement in the academic literature on the importance of concepts for other cognitive functions such as self-regulation or communication. Adults, for example, can say that things X, Y, and Z, although different from each other, are all “beautiful,” and this is useful for different projects (such as decorating our apartment). This is, in this case, a very complex concept (the concept of “beautiful things”). But do young children have access to conceptual cognition?
For some years now there has been empirical evidence that during the first year of life infants develop concepts related to objects of the material world (for example, the concept of “spoon”). Some authors proposed that children form these first objects from perceptual similarities between objects in the environment: we would group into categories that which is physically similar. In this research, however, the focus is on the role of knowledge about the conventional functions of objects (for example, in our culture, spoons must be used to eat) in the construction of object concepts.
Partial results show that children come to interact with objects in differential ways based on their conventional or canonical functions. In this sense, and from an enactive perspective, it is argued that concepts are, in early childhood, general forms of engagement with and through materiality. 

Featured publications

Alessandroni, N., & Rodríguez, C. (2020). The development of categorization and conceptual thinking in early childhood: Methods and limitations. Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica, 33, article 17.
Alessandroni, N. (2020). Object concepts and their functional core: Material engagement and canonical uses of objects in early childhood education. Human Arenas.
Alessandroni, N. y Rodríguez, C. (en prensa). On perception as the basis for object concepts: A critical review. Pragmatics & Cognition.
Alessandroni, N. y Rodríguez, C. (2017). Is CONTAINER a natural and embodied image schema? A developmental, pragmatic, and cultural proposal. Human Development, 60(4), 144–178.

Ongoing Theses

Alessandroni, N. (expected reading in 2021). El desarrollo de los conceptos de objeto en la escuela infantil (aula 0-1) [The development of object concepts in infant school (0-1 classroom)] (Doctoral thesis in progress). Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.