The Essential Child: Origins of Essentialism in Everyday Thought

Hardcover | April 30, 2005

bySusan A. Gelman

not yet rated|write a review
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. Youngchildren'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 versusnurture, 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 buildup 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 beliefsthat 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 researchon 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.

Pricing and Purchase Info

$46.95

Ships within 1-3 weeks
Ships free on orders over $25

From the Publisher

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. Youngchildren's concepts reflect a deep commitment to ess...

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 Psychol...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:392 pages, 5.98 × 9.21 × 1.1 inPublished:April 30, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195181980

ISBN - 13:9780195181982

Look for similar items by category:

Customer Reviews of The Essential Child: Origins of Essentialism in Everyday Thought

Reviews

Extra Content

Table of Contents

1. IntroductionPART I: THE PHENOMENAIntroduction to Part I. Notes on Research Methods2. The Inductive Potential of Categories3. Hidden, Nonobvious Properties4. Children's Conceptions of Nature and Nurture5. Causal Explanations, Causal Determinism6. Conclusions to Part IPART II: MECHANISMS OF ACQUISITION7. What Parents Say--and Do Not Say--about Essences8. Essentialism in Language9. Theory Theories and DAM TheoriesPART III: IMPLICATIONS AND SPECULATIONS10. Unfinished Business11. Why Do We Essentialize?NotesReferencesAuthor IndexSubject Index

Editorial Reviews

"This is a path-breaking book on children's conceptual development with important implications for virtually all of cognitive science." --Douglas Medin, Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University