Folkbiological reasoning from a cross-cultural developmental perspective: Early essentialist notions are shaped by cultural beliefs

Sandra Waxman*, Douglas Medin, Norbert Ross

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations

Abstract

In 2 experiments, the authors examined the evolution of folkbiological reasoning in children (4 to 10 years of age) and adults from 4 distinct communities (rural Native American, rural majority culture, and suburban and urban North American communities). Using an adoption paradigm, they examined participants' intuitions regarding the inheritance of properties and the mechanisms underlying the transmission of kindhood. Across all communities and ages, there was a strong biological component underlying reasoning about the inheritance of properties. There were also differences in children's intuitions about the mechanisms underlying kindhood: Native American children were more likely than their counterparts to consider blood as a candidate biological essence. This suggests that as children search to discover the underlying essence of a biological kind, they are guided by broad essentialist notions that are shaped by discourse within their community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-308
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Volume43
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2007

Keywords

  • Cognition
  • Culture
  • Development
  • Essentialist notions
  • Folkbiological reasoning
  • Folkbiology
  • Native Americans
  • Rural environments
  • Urban environments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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