Vitalistic causality in young children's naive biology

  title={Vitalistic causality in young children's naive biology},
  author={Kayoko Inagaki and Giyoo Hatano},
  journal={Trends in Cognitive Sciences},

Naive theory of biology: the pre-school child's explanation of death

This article explains the naive theory of biology that the pre-school child uses to explain the cause of death. The empirical investigation showed that the young participants do use a naive theory of

Intuitive Foundations of Conceptions of Vitality: The Case of Chinese Children’s Understanding of Illness Causation

The cognitive science of religion emphasizes the naturalness of intuitive dualism, the notion that persons are made up of bodies and minds. However, there is also cross-cultural recurrence of the

Developing an Understanding of Science

Young children are adept at several types of scientific reasoning, yet older children and adults have difficulty mastering formal scientific ideas and practices. Why do “little scientists” often

Examining Biological Explanations in Chinese Preschool Children: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

Abstract Research with American preschool children has shown that in some core domains – such as naive biological reasoning – young children’s explanations can sensitively reveal their understanding,

Developmental “Roots” in Mature Biological Knowledge

The results suggest that mature biological knowledge relies on a developmental foundation that is not radically overwritten or erased with the profound conceptual changes that accompany mastery of the domain.

Developmental Origins of Biological Explanations: The case of infants’ internal property bias

It is argued that these precursors may support the progressive construction of the notion of biological kinds and explanations during childhood, which is integrated into diverse explanations about kind membership and biological processes, with an increasingly better understanding of the causal role of internal properties.

Children's Mental Models of Prenatal Development

This study contributes to a deeper understanding of naïve biology and to the effects of different methodologies being used in the area of mental models.

Gender differences in preschoolers’ understanding of the concept of life

This study investigated gender differences in North American preschoolers’ biological reasoning about the concept of ‘life’. Four-year-olds (M = 4.6, SD = 3.3 months) and five-year-olds (M = 5.6, SD

Whitewashing Nature: Sanitized Depictions of Biology in Children's Books and Parent-Child Conversation.

It is suggested that early input relevant to biological competition may hamper children's developing understanding of ecology and evolution.



The development of biological explanation: are children vitalists?

It is concluded that children's thinking about biology is not necessarily more vitalistic than adults' and that the changeability of biological and psychological characteristics and the causal mechanisms underlying biological, psychological, and mechanical phenomena change with development.

On facts and conceptual systems: young children's integration of their understandings of germs and contagion.

Five studies argue against claims that preschoolers understand a biological germ theory of illness and suggest that children undergo conceptual reorganization in constructing a Western adult understanding of germs.

Young children's predictions of illness: failure to recognize probabilistic causation.

  • C. Kalish
  • Psychology
    Developmental psychology
  • 1998
Preschool-age children made predictions for a set of salient probabilistic causes and treated all causes of illness as nonprobabilistic, contrasting with adults' variable and uncertain predictions.

Young children's understanding of the mind-body distinction.

The results suggest that children as young as 6 years of age have acquired a form of biology as an autonomous domain which is separate from that of psychology.

Vitalism in naive biological thinking.

Three experiments investigated the use of vitalistic explanations for biological phenomena by 5- and 10-year-old English-speaking children and adults, focusing on 2 components: the notion that bodily organs have intentions and the idea that some life force or energy is transmitted.

Children's and adults' models for predicting teleological action: the development of a biology-based model.

The evidence from these two studies suggests that preschoolers, unlike fifth graders and adults, predict teleological action for plants and animals on the basis of these entities' inferred psychological capacities.


Nearly all psychological research on basic cognitive processes of category formation and reasoning uses sample populations associated with large research institutions in technologically-advanced

Essentialism in Brazilian children's extensions of animal names.

Two groups of Brazilian 4-year-olds were told that 2 animals share either internal or superficial properties, and they were taught labels for the animals, indicating that internal property information convinced children that the animals were of the same kind.