Sarah M. Stilwell

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Psychological essentialism is the belief that some internal, unseen essence or force determines the common outward appearances and behaviors of category members. We investigated whether reasoning about transplants of bodily elements showed evidence of essentialist thinking. Both Americans and Indians endorsed the possibility of transplants conferring(More)
We tested the hypothesis that generics (e.g., Dogs have four legs) are a cognitive default, thereby allowing faster and less effortful processing in comparison to quantified noun phrases (e.g., all dogs). Participants judged sentences containing either generics or universally-quantified noun phrases as true or false. Under time pressure, participants(More)
Generics ("Dogs bark") convey important information about categories and facilitate children's learning. Two studies with parents and their 2- or 4-year-old children (N = 104 dyads) examined whether individual differences in generic language use are as follows: (a) stable over time, contexts, and domains, and (b) linked to conceptual factors. For both(More)
We propose that there is a powerful human disposition to track the actions and possessions of agents. In two experiments, 3-year-olds and adults viewed sets of objects, learned a new fact about one of the objects in each set (either that it belonged to the participant, or that it possessed a particular label), and were queried about either the taught fact(More)
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