Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Animals talk, sing and act like humans?

11.05.2010
Young children's reasoning about biological world is influenced by cultural beliefs

How do children reason about the natural world? How do they understand the relation between human and non-human animals?

For decades, the consensus was that as young children begin reasoning about the biological world, they adopt an "anthropocentric" stance, favoring humans over non-human animals when it comes to learning about properties of animals.

But Northwestern University researchers have taken another look at the way children reason about biology.

Research by Douglas Medin, Sandra Waxman and Jennie Woodring in the psychology department in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Karen Washinawatok of the Menominee Language and Culture Commission reveals that this style of human-centered reasoning is not universal.

In a study, which appeared May 1 in the journal Cognitive Development, the Northwestern researchers teamed up with researchers and educators from the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin to determine whether this human-centered (or anthropocentric) reasoning is universal. They were interested in whether such reasoning is influenced by children's experience with the natural world and the culture and belief systems of their communities.

To examine these potential influences, the study included children growing up in an urban setting (Chicago) as well as children from rural Wisconsin, who have more extensive direct contact with the natural world. To examine the influence of culture, the rural community included European-American and Native American (Menominee) children.

The results were striking -- while young urban children revealed a human-centered pattern of reasoning, the rural European-American and Native American children did not. Children's experience, including the extent of their day-to-day interactions with the natural world and their sensitivity to the belief systems of their communities, influences their reasoning about the natural world.

For example, the researchers noted that while children generally are taught in school that only plants and animals are alive, the traditional Menominee notion of "alive" includes natural inanimates, such as rocks and water, and may even include artifacts, depending on the purpose for which they were made.

Such cultural differences provide strong evidence that the human-centered pattern displayed by young urban children is not a universal starting point for development, as researchers and educators had previously assumed, said Waxman, a co-author and professor of psychology.

"Instead, this human-centered style of reasoning is itself culturally inflected," said Waxman. "It may, in fact, reflect a cultural model that is prevalent in the media for young children, for example, stories and films in which animals talk, sing and act like humans."

Hilary Hurd Anyaso | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu
http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

nachricht Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>