Essentialism and Folkbiology: Evidence from Brazil

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
Scott Atran
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Douglas Medin
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Paulo Sousa
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Experimental results in reference to Brazilian children and adults are presented in the context of current discussions about essentialism and folkbiology. Using an adoption paradigm, we replicate the basic findings of a previous article in this journal concerning the early emergence in children of a birth-parent bias (Atran et al. 2001). This cognitive bias supports the claim that causal essentialism cross-culturally constrains the reasoning about the origin, development and maintenance of the characteristics and identity of living kinds. We also report some intriguing differences with earlier findings that speak to theoretical and methodological issues of cultural relativity.

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