NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Back to results
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ778735
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2003-Feb
Pages: 30
Abstractor: Author
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0285
Learning about Life and Death in Early Childhood
Slaughter, Virginia; Lyons, Michelle
Cognitive Psychology, v46 n1 p1-30 Feb 2003
Inagaki and Hatano (2002) have argued that young children initially understand biological phenomena in terms of vitalism, a mode of construal in which "life" or "life-force" is the central causal-explanatory concept. This study investigated the development of vitalistic reasoning in young children's concepts of life, the human body and death. Sixty preschool children between the ages of 3 years, 7 months and 5 years, 11 months participated. All children were initially given structured interviews to assess their knowledge of (1) human body function and (2) death. From this sample 40 children in the Training group were taught about the human body and how it functions to maintain life. The Control group (n=20) received no training. All 60 children were subsequently reassessed on their knowledge of human body function and death. Results from the initial interviews indicated that young children who spontaneously appealed to vitalistic concepts in reasoning about human body functioning were also more sophisticated in their understanding of death. Results from the posttraining interviews showed that children readily learned to adopt a vitalistic approach to human body functioning, and that this learning coincided with significant development in their understanding of human body function, and of death. The overall pattern of results supports the claim that the acquisition of a vitalistic causal-explanatory framework serves to structure children's concepts and facilitates learning in the domain of biology.
Elsevier. 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, FL 32887-4800. Tel: 877-839-7126; Tel: 407-345-4020; Fax: 407-363-1354; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Early Childhood Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A