Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Very young children think animals are just like us

Douglas Medina, Sandra Waxman, Jennie Woodringa and Karen Washinawatokb, Human-centeredness is not a universal feature of young children's reasoning: Culture and experience matter when reasoning about biological entities, Cognitive Development, in press. Available online 29 March 2010.

Abstract: We consider young children's construals of biological phenomena and the forces that shape them, using Carey's (1985) category-based induction task that demonstrated anthropocentric reasoning in young urban children. Follow-up studies (including our own) have questioned the generality of her results, but they have employed quite different procedures and either have not included urban children or, when urban samples were included, have failed to reproduce her original findings. In the present study of 4–10-year-olds from three cultural communities, our procedures followed Carey's more closely and replicated her findings with young urban children. However, they yielded quite different results for young rural European American and young rural Native American children. These results underscore the importance of a complex interaction of culture and experience – including both day-to-day interactions with the natural world and sensitivity to the belief systems of the communities – in children's reasoning about the natural world.

You can download a PDF here. Press release here.

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