This paper in earlier form was submitted to the faculty of the University of Michigan as part of a doctoral dissertation. I would like to thank my dissertation advisor, Susan Gelman, and my committee, Lawrence Hirschfeld, Douglas Medin, and Henry Wellman. I am very grateful to the children, parents, and staff of St. Francis School in Ann Arbor for their participation in this research. I would also like to thank Beth Cundiff for her capable assistance in data collection. Finally, I would like to thank Evan Heit, Douglas Medin, and Sandra Waxman for extremely helpful comments on subsequent drafts of the paper, James Boster for statistical advice, and Rebekah Levine for her invaluable contributions.
Emerging Differentiation of Folkbiology and Folkpsychology: Attributions of Biological and Psychological Properties to Living Things
Version of Record online: 28 JUN 2008
Volume 66, Issue 6, pages 1856–1874, December 1995
How to Cite
Coley, J. D. (1995), Emerging Differentiation of Folkbiology and Folkpsychology: Attributions of Biological and Psychological Properties to Living Things. Child Development, 66: 1856–1874. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1995.tb00970.x
- Issue online: 28 JUN 2008
- Version of Record online: 28 JUN 2008
Research suggests that for adults, “folkpsychology” and “folkbiology” represent distinct conceptual domains for reasoning about living things. However, it is not clear whether these domains are distinct for children; past work suggests that the 2 systems are confused until age 10, and that radical theory change accounts for eventual differentiation. To examine this claim, 16 subjects each at ages 6, 8, and adult were shown pictures of predatory and domestic animals and asked whether each animal displayed a variety of biological properties (e.g., has blood) and psychological properties (e.g., can think, can feel angry). Subjects at all ages showed clearly different attribution patterns for biological versus psychological properties. This dissociation of attribution patterns provides evidence that by kindergarten, notions of folkpsychology and folkbiology are sufficiently differentiated to constitute distinct and independent conceptual domains. This in turn suggests that radical theory change regarding living things either occurs prior to the beginning of formal education, or does not explain the development of folkbiological knowledge.