What Parents Say—and Do Not Say—about Essences

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

 What Parents Say—and Do Not Say—about Essences

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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

Chapter.  10888 words. 

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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