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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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What Parents Say—and Do Not Say—about Essences

What Parents Say—and Do Not Say—about Essences

Chapter:
(p.155) Chapter 7 What Parents Say—and Do Not Say—about Essences
Source:
The Essential Child
Author(s):

Susan A. Gelman (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195154061.003.0008

From an empiricist view, children learn about essences by observation, either direct or indirect — including via the stories told by their parents. This view is appealing in many respects, particularly since children believe many other sorts of surprising things (the existence of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, for instance) because they are told to and they are trusting. Also, if parents transmit these beliefs to children directly, then we do not have to grapple with the disquieting implications of the possibility that children are somehow biased in constructing stereotypes. However, not all stories told to children are essentialist. The input that children hear is more complicated, and the acquisitional account is correspondingly more interesting. This chapter details a systematic investigation about what parents say about essences — and what they do not say.

Keywords:   essentialism, children, parents, essences, child psychology, perceptual information, language

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