Essential Child by Susan A. Gelman
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Essential Child
By Susan A. Gelman

The Essential Child

Origins of Essentialism in Everyday Thought

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Format: Paperback

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Essential Child by Susan A. Gelman

Book Description

Essentialism is the idea that certain categories, such as "dog," "man," or "intelligence," have an underlying reality or true nature that gives objects their identity. Where does this idea come from? In this book, Susan Gelman argues that essentialism is an early cognitive bias. Young children's concepts reflect a deep commitment to essentialism, and this commitment leads children to look beyond the obvious in many converging ways: when learning words, generalizing knowledge to new category members, reasoning about the insides of things, contemplating the role of nature versus nurture, and constructing causal explanations. Gelman argues against the standard view of children as concrete or focused on the obvious, instead claiming that children have an early, powerful tendency to search for hidden, non-obvious features of things. She also attacks claims that children build up their knowledge of the world based on simple, associative learning strategies, arguing that children's concepts are embedded in rich folk theories. Parents don't explicitly teach children to essentialize; instead, during the preschool years, children spontaneously construct concepts and beliefs that reflect an essentialist bias. Essentialist accounts have been offered, in one form or another, for thousands of years, extending back at least to Aristotle and Plato. Yet this book is the first to address the issues surrounding essentialism from a psychological perspective. Gelman synthesizes over 15 years of empirical research on essentialism into a unified framework and explores the broader lessons that the research imparts concerning, among other things, human concepts, children's thinking, and the ways in which language influences thought. This volume will appeal to developmental, cognitive, and social psychologists, as well as to scholars in cognitive science and philosophy.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780195181982
ISBN-10: 0195181980
Format: Paperback
(234mm x 156mm x 25mm)
Pages: 392
Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Publish Date: 25-Apr-2005
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions...


Books By Author Susan A. Gelman

Childhood Cognitive Development by Susan A. Gelman Childhood Cognitive Development, Hardback (January 2014)

This new SAGE Major Work presents a collection of important papers - both classic and contemporary - that cover key contributions in the area of cognitive development in children, designed to be a touchstone text for scholars, practitioners and educators with an interest in children's thinking.

Perspectives on Language and Thought by Susan A. Gelman Perspectives on Language and Thought, Paperback (June 2008)

This book presents current observational and experimental research on the links between thought and language in such children.

Mother-child Conversations About Gender by Susan A. Gelman Mother-child Conversations About Gender, Paperback (July 2004)

A monograph that looks at how mothers and young children talk about gender, to discover the potential role of language in fostering gender stereotypes.

» View all books by Susan A. Gelman

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Author Biography - Susan A. Gelman

Susan A. Gelman is the Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. She has authored more than one hundred publications on language and cognitive development and has received numerous honors and awards, including a J.S. Guggenheim Fellowship, a Distinguished Scientific Award from the American Psychological Association for Early Career Contribution to Psychology, and a Boyd McCandless Young Scientist Award from Division 7 of the American Psychological Association. She also serves on the editorial board of several journals. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, the National Science Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.

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