Hidden, Nonobvious Properties

Susan A. Gelman

in The Essential Child

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780195154061
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199786718 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Series in Cognitive Development

 Hidden, Nonobvious Properties

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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

Chapter.  13111 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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