Springer (1996) is also cited as evidence that preschoolers understand biological inheritance. To be sure, he showed that the task could be altered to yield better performance than was shown on Solomon et al., but even then less than half of preschoolers succeeded. Springer (1999) interpreted the results more conservatively.
Birth, kind and naïve biology
Version of Record online: 1 MAY 2002
Volume 5, Issue 2, pages 213–218, May 2002
How to Cite
Solomon, G. E.A. (2002), Birth, kind and naïve biology. Developmental Science, 5: 213–218. doi: 10.1111/1467-7687.00223
The shirt version was always presented first to allow more direct comparison with the race judgment in Hirschfeld (1995), also presented first. Moreover, two pilot tests as well as several previous studies (Johnson & Solomon, 1997; Solomon & Johnson, 2000; Solomon et al., 1996; Springer, 1996) showed no evidence of order effects.
Recall that two sentences had been added to the Experiment 1 story to test the possibility that children in Hirschfeld (1995) had shown a birth parent bias because the adoptive parents had not been sufficiently described as parents: ‘They loved her very much and she loved them. They called her “Daughter” and she called them “Mommy” and “Daddy”’. Experiment 1 showed no effect of this wording, so the sentences were dropped from Experiment 2.
- Issue online: 1 MAY 2002
- Version of Record online: 1 MAY 2002
- Received: 31 August 2000 Accepted: 12 June 2001
Much recent debate concerning the acquisition of naïve theories of biology and of race has turned on the claim that even preschoolers understand biological inheritance. At issue is what is implied by the belief that offspring will have the characteristic features of their kind. The present paper argues that such an essentialist belief in innate potential need not indicate a domain-specific understanding of the biological inheritance of human kinds (or race). In Study 1, preschoolers in a Switched-at-birth task were found to be as likely to judge an adopted girl to resemble her birth parents on the color of their shirts as on their race. In Study 2, a variant on the task, 4-year-olds were found to be more likely to judge the girl to resemble her adoptive parents, suggesting that the concept of birth origin was not central to their reasoning. Though the results are consistent with the claim that preschoolers reason about human kinds in an essentialist manner, they undermine the broader claim that such reasoning is anchored by a naïve theory of biology. The finding is of cultural as well as cognitive consequence.