Insides and outsides: Investigating preschoolers' understanding of biological and environmental aspects of essentialism with novel categories

Diana GRACE, Melissa Straiton, Willow Hewett-Reeves, Michael Platow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


EXTENSIVE EVIDENCE OF ESSENTIALIST thinking in children emphasises cognitive processes with little attention paid to social contexts. The experimental study reported in this paper follows a recent trend in social psychology of integrating theories of essentialism and social categorisation by investigating four-year-olds' (n = 64) responses to novel social stimuli. Biological and environmental/social aspects of essentialism were both manipulated and measured to investigate how contextual changes interact with children's understanding. Consistent with our predictions, children demonstrated variability in essentialist thinking that was, somewhat surprisingly, stronger on the biological measures. Our results add to a growing body of evidence demonstrating the active role played by young children in interpreting their social world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-41
Number of pages9
JournalAustralasian Journal of Early Childhood
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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