Development of linguistic and cognitive aspects of the understanding of similarity and difference
This thesis explores various aspects of children's understanding of similarity and difference and of the terms 'same' and 'different'. Understanding of 'same' appeared to be good but there was some evidence that it might not be complete. Understanding of 'different' was clearly inferior to that of 'same' and some children misinterpreted it as meaning 'same', this being supported by an experiment looking at interpretations of 'same', 'different' and a nonsense word, following Carey. Awareness of similarity and difference was investigated in several experiments. Subjects were required to give a similarity or a difference between two items, either named or pictured, in experiments developed from Claparede's work; they had to select from an array of items one either the same as or different from a target item and to justify that choice; and they had to judge whether two items were the same or not or were different or not in an experiment similar to one devised by Vurpillot. The children found more difficulty with similarity than with difference. It was suggested that similarity was typically handled in a holistic fashion, by a process of analogy, while difference was treated by analysis into component parts. The ability to analyse similarity developed with age. If similarity is not analysed into component points, these points cannot be mentioned in responses. An information-processing model of awareness was used to explain perseverative responses and the giving of differences when similarities were requested. It was suggested that these resulted in part from a failure to make transitions in awareness between different levels appropriately.