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The Essential Child: Origins of Essentialism in Everyday Thought

Susan A. Gelman

Abstract

Essentialism is the idea that certain categories, such as “dog,” “man,” or “intelligence,” have an underlying reality or true nature that gives objects their identity. This book argues that essentialism is an early cognitive bias. Young children's concepts reflect a deep commitment to essentialism, and this commitment leads children to look beyond the obvious in many converging ways: when learning words, generalizing knowledge to new category members, reasoning about the insides of things, contemplating the role of nature versus nurture, and constructing causal explanations. This book argues a ... More

Keywords: essentialism, cognitive science, children, associative learning strategies, philosophy, empirical research, human concepts

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2003 Print ISBN-13: 9780195154061
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195154061.001.0001

Authors

Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Susan A. Gelman, author
University of Michigan
Author Webpage