Children's Developing Concepts of Ordinary and Extraordinary Minds: The Roles of Intuitive Theories and Cultural Input.

Show simple item record Lane, Jonathan D. en_US 2012-01-26T20:11:36Z 2012-01-26T20:11:36Z 2011 en_US en_US
dc.description.abstract Individuals worldwide entertain ideas about beings with extraordinary mental capacities that far surpass ordinary human limits. How and when do such concepts develop? Two theories have been proposed to account for this development. A preparedness hypothesis states that young children are prepared to understand all minds as infallible, perhaps omniscient. A contrasting anthropomorphism hypothesis states that children's understanding of extraordinary minds builds upon their initial understanding of ordinary, limited minds. I assess these hypotheses in three studies. In Study 1, secularly-schooled preschoolers completed theory-of-mind tasks about the mental states of contrasting agents, including ordinary humans, God, and Mr. Smart—whom children were taught "knows everything." Consistent with an anthropomorphism hypothesis, 4-year-olds who were beginning to attribute mental limits to ordinary humans (e.g., ignorance) attributed those limits to God and to Mr. Smart. Only 5-year-olds differentiated between humans' fallible minds and extraordinary beings' less fallible minds. In Study 2, religiously-schooled preschoolers completed identical tasks, revealing a similar developmental pattern: 4-year-olds beginning to attribute certain limits to humans also attributed those limits to God. However, religiously-schooled 4-year-olds did not attribute those limits to Mr. Smart, whose powers they had just been instructed about. Across both studies, children who were more knowledgeable about God attributed to extraordinary beings less fallible capacities, but this was true only among children who understood ordinary humans' mental fallibilities. Using different tasks with preschoolers, elementary-school children, and adults, Study 3 revealed that older preschoolers grant all-knowing beings knowledge of many (though not all) domains, including knowledge that ordinary people cannot easily acquire. Understanding the depth of all-knowing beings' knowledge (i.e., knowledge of everything within a domain) was not robust until early adulthood. Older preschoolers' exposure to ideas about God predicted attributions of broader knowledge to a new all-knowing being. Results from Studies 2 and 3 suggest that, after developing a representational theory-of-mind, socio-cultural input can facilitate an appreciation for extraordinary minds. Study 3 additionally identifies other cognitive competencies that support an understanding of omniscience. Collectively, these studies reveal that young children are clearly not prepared to understand extraordinary mental capacities, but instead such understanding develops progressively throughout childhood. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.subject Social Cognition en_US
dc.subject Conceptual Development en_US
dc.subject Theory of Mind en_US
dc.subject Religious Concepts en_US
dc.subject Extraordinary Minds en_US
dc.subject Socio-cultural Input en_US
dc.title Children's Developing Concepts of Ordinary and Extraordinary Minds: The Roles of Intuitive Theories and Cultural Input. en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreename Ph.D. en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreediscipline Psychology en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreegrantor University of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Wellman, Henry M. en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Evans, Evelyn Margaret en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Gelman, Susan A. en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Meek, Barbra A. en_US
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel Psychology en_US
dc.subject.hlbtoplevel Social Sciences en_US
dc.owningcollname Dissertations and Theses (Ph.D. and Master's)
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