MICHAEL CHANDLER LECTURE FEATURING
Dr. Susan Gelman, University of Michigan
Origins of Essentialist Reasoning
Essentialism is the idea that items have an underlying reality that explains their manifest appearance and determines their identity. I argue 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, contemplating the role of nature versus nurture, and constructing causal explanations. I consider two puzzles that this phenomenon raises: How are essentialist beliefs transmitted? And: What is the scope of essentialist reasoning?
Susan Gelman is a Heinz Werner Collegiate Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on the topics of cognitive development, language acquisition, categorization, inductive reasoning, causal reasoning, and relationships between language and thought.
ABOUT MICHAEL CHANDLER
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