ERIC Number: EJ886834
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Jul
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
Essentialism in the Absence of Language? Evidence from Rhesus Monkeys ("Macaca mulatta")
Phillips, Webb; Shankar, Maya; Santos, Laurie R.
Developmental Science, v13 n4 pF1-F7 Jul 2010
We explored whether rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) share one important feature of human essentialist reasoning: the capacity to track category membership across radical featural transformations. Specifically, we examined whether monkeys--like children (Keil, 1989)--expect a transformed object to have the internal properties of its original category. In two experiments, monkeys watched as an experimenter visually transformed a familiar fruit (e.g. apple) into a new kind of fruit (e.g. coconut) either by placing a fruit exterior over the original, or by removing an exterior shell and revealing the inside kind of fruit. The experimenter then pretended to place an inside piece of the transformed fruit into a box which the monkey was allowed to search. Results indicated that monkeys searched the box longer when they found a piece of fruit inconsistent with the inside kind, suggesting that the monkeys expected that the inside of the transformed fruit would taste like the innermost kind they saw. These results suggest that monkeys may share at least one aspect of psychological essentialism: They maintain category-specific expectations about an object's internal properties even when that object's external properties change. These results therefore suggest that some essentialist expectations may emerge in the absence of language, and thus raise the possibility that such tendencies may emerge earlier in human development than has previously been considered.
Descriptors: Animals, Visual Stimuli, Cognitive Processes, Visual Perception, Developmental Psychology, Experimental Psychology, Animal Behavior
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
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