Cultural Differences in Children’s Ecological Reasoning and Psychological Closeness to Nature: Evidence from Menominee and European American Children

in Journal of Cognition and Culture
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Abstract

In spite of evidence for cultural variation in adult concepts of the biological world (i.e., folkbiological thought), research regarding the influence of culture on children’s concepts is mixed, and cultural influences on many aspects of early folkbiological thought remain underexplored. Previous research has shown that there are cultural differences in ecological reasoning and psychological closeness to nature between Menominee Native American and rural European American adults (e.g., Medin et al., 2006; Bang et al., 2007). In the present research we examined whether these cultural concepts are available at 5–7 years of age. We conducted structured interviews in which each child viewed several pairs of pictures of plants and non-human animals and were asked how or why the species (e.g., raspberries and strawberries) might go together. We found that Menominee children were more likely than European American children to mention ecological relations and psychological closeness to nature, and that they were also more likely to mimic the non-human species. There were no differences between the two communities in the number of children’s responses based on taxonomic and morphological relations. Implications for the design of science curricula are discussed.

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