Developmental evidence for a link between the inherence bias in explanation and psychological essentialism

Shelbie L. Sutherland, Andrei Cimpian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The assumption that natural and social categories have deeper “essences” is a fundamental feature of the conceptual system, with wide-ranging consequences for behavior. What are the developmental origins of this assumption? We propose that essentialism emerges in part from a bias in the process of generating explanations that leads reasoners to overuse inherent or intrinsic features. Consistent with this proposal, the inherence bias in 4-year-olds’ explanations predicted the strength of their essentialist beliefs (Study 1; N = 64), and manipulations of the inherence bias in 4- to 7-year-olds (Studies 2 and 3; N = 112 each) led to subsequent changes in the essentialist beliefs of children who attended to the manipulation. These findings contribute to our understanding of the origins of essentialism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-281
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of experimental child psychology
Volume177
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2019

Keywords

  • Concepts
  • Development
  • Essentialism
  • Explanation
  • Heuristics
  • Inherence bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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