Deborah A. Kelemen

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Research has found that children possess a broad bias in favor of teleological--or purpose-based--explanations of natural phenomena. The current two experiments explored whether adults implicitly possess a similar bias. In Study 1, undergraduates judged a series of statements as "good" (i.e., correct) or "bad" (i.e., incorrect) explanations for why(More)
Teleological explanations are based on the assumption that an object or behavior exists for a purpose. Two studies explored the tendency of adults and first-, second-, and fourth-grade elementary-school children to explain the properties of living and nonliving natural kinds in teleological terms. Consistent with the hypothesis that young children possess a(More)
Separate bodies of research suggest that young children have a broad tendency to reason about natural phenomena in terms of purpose and an orientation toward intention-based accounts of the origins of natural entities. This article explores these results further by drawing together recent findings from various areas of cognitive developmental research to(More)
Tool use is central to interdisciplinary debates about the evolution and distinctiveness of human intelligence, yet little is actually known about how human conceptions of artifacts develop. Results across these two studies show that even 2-year-olds approach artifacts in ways distinct from captive tool-using monkeys. Contrary to adult intuition, children(More)
Teleological explanations account for objects and events by reference to a functional consequence or purpose. Although they are popular in religion, they are unpopular in science: Physical scientists in particular explicitly reject them when explaining natural phenomena. However, prior research provides reasons to suspect that this explanatory form may(More)
Unlike educated adults, young children demonstrate a "promiscuous" tendency to explain objects and phenomena by reference to functions, endorsing what are called teleological explanations. This tendency becomes more selective as children acquire increasingly coherent beliefs about causal mechanisms, but it is unknown whether a widespread preference for(More)
We present three studies exploring 2- to 4-year-olds' imitation on witnessing a model whose questionable tool use choices suggested her untrustworthiness. In Study 1, children observed the model accidentally select a physically optimal tool for a task and then intentionally reject it for one that was functionally nonaffordant. When asked to perform the task(More)
Previous studies show that preschool children view negative emotions as susceptible to intentional control. However, the extent of this understanding and links with child social-emotional adjustment are poorly understood. To examine this, 62 3- and 4-year-olds were presented with puppet scenarios in which characters experienced anger, sadness, and fear.(More)
Moral violations are typically defined as actions that harm others. However, suicide is considered immoral even though the perpetrator is also the victim. To determine whether concerns about purity rather than harm predict moral condemnation of suicide, we presented American adults with obituaries describing suicide or homicide victims. While harm was the(More)