ERIC Number: EJ1131252
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Mar
Abstractor: As Provided
Development of Essentialist Thinking about Religion Categories in Northern Ireland (and the United States)
Smyth, Kirsty; Feeney, Aidan; Eidson, R. Cole; Coley, John D.
Developmental Psychology, v53 n3 p475-496 Mar 2017
Social essentialism, the belief that members of certain social categories share unobservable properties, licenses expectations that those categories are natural and a good basis for inference. A challenge for cognitive developmental theory is to give an account of how children come to develop essentialist beliefs about socially important categories. Previous evidence from Israel suggests that kindergarteners selectively engage in essentialist reasoning about culturally salient (ethnicity) categories, and that this is attenuated among children in integrated schools. In 5 studies (N = 718) we used forced-choice (Study 1) and unconstrained (Studies 2-4) category-based inference tasks, and a questionnaire (Study 5) to study the development of essentialist reasoning about religion categories in Northern Ireland (Studies 1-3 & 5) and the U.S. (Study 4). Results show that, as in Israel, Northern Irish children selectively engage in essentialist reasoning about culturally salient (religion) categories, and that such reasoning is attenuated among children in integrated schools. However, the development trajectory of essentialist thinking and the patterns of attenuation among children attending integrated schools in Northern Ireland differ from the Israeli case. Meta-analysis confirmed this claim and ruled out an alternative explanation of the results based on community diversity. Although the Northern Irish and Israeli case studies illustrate that children develop selective essentialist beliefs about socially important categories, and that these beliefs are impacted by educational context, the differences between them emphasize the importance of historical, cultural, and political context in understanding conceptual development, and suggest that there may be more than one developmental route to social essentialism.
Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Cognitive Development, Religion, Classification, Social Characteristics, Inferences, Logical Thinking, Meta Analysis, Children, Institutional Characteristics, School Segregation, Community Characteristics, Cultural Differences, Factor Analysis
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom (Northern Ireland); Israel; Massachusetts
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A