Jean Mandler’s rich and nuanced feature article (this issue) develops a four-part argument:
1. An adequate characterization of the adult mind must distinguish conceptual representations from perceptual representations.
2. A priori arguments cannot decide the issue of the ontogenetic roots of each type of representation, nor of the relations between them. In particular, there is no convincing a priori argument that infants’ representations are first perceptual and only later conceptual. Furthermore, there is no known mechanism through which conceptual representations may be built from perceptual representations.
3. Data from three paradigms—sequential touching, manual habituation, and imitation—provide convergent evidence that conceptual categories exhibit a differ- ent course of development than do perceptual categories. Specifically, conceptual categories emerge at the domain level (e.g., animal vs. vehicle) before the basic (dog vs. cat) or subordinate (poodle vs. collie) levels, whereas most available evidence suggests that categories based on visual similarity are formed at the basic level first.
4. A process of attentive perceptual analysis yields conceptual categories.