Chapter

Theory Theories and DAM Theories

Susan A. Gelman

in The Essential Child

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780195154061
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199786718 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195154061.003.0010

Series: Oxford Series in Cognitive Development

 Theory Theories and DAM Theories

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Childhood essentialism has implications for theories on cognitive development. There is wide-ranging evidence for what may be called “early competence”. Preschool children appear to be surprisingly skilled: they attend to nonobvious properties, search for underlying causes, draw systematic category-based inferences, and so forth. This chapter discusses why and how children show early competence. This question is approached in two ways, one by reconciling these findings with the seemingly contradictory results from other tasks. The other is by considering which of two radically different accounts best explains why children show this early competence: the theory theory view or the “dumb attentional mechanisms” view. A brief summary of theory-laden essentialism is presented as a launching point from which to consider alternative views.

Keywords: essentialism; children; child psychology; theory theories; early competence; dumb attentional mechanism theories

Chapter.  15527 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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