Development of visual pattern classification in preschool children: Prototypes and distinctive features

Tannis M. Williams, Margaret L. Fryer, Leona S. Aiken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Studied the use of prototypes and distinctive features in visual pattern classification with 12 Ss at each of 3 age levels: 4, 5, and 6 yrs. All Ss attended day-care centers in middle-class neighborhoods of metropolitan Canadian areas. Two tasks were performed: (a) an oddity task requiring selection of the odd pattern in problems containing 2 patterns generated from 1 prototype and 1 from another, and (b) a sequential task requiring designation from memory of each pattern's class membership. There was a marked improvement in oddity task classification accuracy between the 4- and 5-yr age levels. Performance at each age level could be predicted from measures of deviation from prototype and 2 distinctive features unrelated to pattern class membership. In the more difficult sequential task, the preschoolers did not respond to an entire set of features as subsumed in prototype measures, but a single class-defining feature significantly predicted the classifications of the 4- and 5-yr-olds. It is concluded that the ability to use single features develops prior to the ability to use a feature list or prototype and that both distinctive features and prototypes are important for perceptual learning and development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-584
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 1977


  • prototypes & distinctive features, development of visual pattern classification, 4 vs 5 vs 6 yr olds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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