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The Essential ChildOrigins of Essentialism in Everyday Thought$
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Susan A. Gelman

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195154061

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195154061.001.0001

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Hidden, Nonobvious Properties

Hidden, Nonobvious Properties

Chapter:
(p.60) Chapter 3 Hidden, Nonobvious Properties
Source:
The Essential Child
Author(s):

Susan A. Gelman (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195154061.003.0004

This chapter argues that by four years of age children construct beliefs and assumptions about properties that are “internal, but...unknown” (to borrow from Locke) and that these beliefs have serious consequences for reasoning about what things are. This set of constructions contradicts standard views of children as focused on what is concrete, perceptual, and in the immediate context. Explicit essentialist accounts given by adults characterize essences as invisible, distinct from outward appearances, and remarkably stable and resilient. This point is illustrated with the self-reported experiences of Claire Sylvia, who described feeling changes in her behavior and emotions after undergoing a heart-lung transplant.

Keywords:   essentialism, children, child psychology, nonobvious properties, Claire Sylvia, essences, boundary intensification, stability over transformations

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