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Yukatek Maya Children's Attributions of Belief to Natural and Non-natural Entities

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
Author: Nicola Knight1
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  • 1 Centre for Anthropology and Mind, University of Oxford, 64 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6PN, UK
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Abstract

A sample of Yukatek Maya children was tested on their capacity to attribute false beliefs to a variety of stimuli, both natural (human and non-human animal) and non-natural (Catholic God and local religious figures). Children's capacity to correctly infer that humans have limited perceptual access, and are, therefore, not likely to know what is inside a container if the contents have been surreptitiously replaced, is shown to have significant consequences. Children who passed the test with the human stimulus showed a nuanced capacity to attribute similar or dissimilar knowledge to other natural and non-natural entities, consistently with these entities' cultural representations. In contrast, those who failed the test with the human stimulus tended to attribute similar beliefs to all natural and non-natural entity stimuli.

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